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So we had all these guys roaming around the city in tuxes from the top, board shorts and thongs.

Episode 10

ON PIONEERING & MASTERING FOMO, BUILDING A WORLD CLASS TEAM AND DOMINATING THE OFF-THE-PLAN MARKET.

Justin Brown | Chairman | CBRE Residential Projects
Justin Brown is a doyen in the world of residential project marketing in Australia and throughout the Asia pacific region. Currently Chairman of CBRE & founder of his own development company, Abadeen, Justin was a true pioneer of project marketing in Australia and has been the leading force in launching & selling new lifestyle destinations in some of Australia’s most valuable precincts for nearly 30 years. Throughout his career, Justin has personally sold, managed and or overseen the sales of over 80% of the premium off-the-plan mixed use & residential market in Sydney and has overseen the sales of over $200B worth of real estate internationally. He has constantly achieved new price benchmarks in some of the world’s most iconic projects including Bennelong , Darling Square, Sydney Wharf, Bondi Pacific, Barangaroo & the Opera residences in Sydney along with the HMAS site in Melbourne – amongst many others too many to mention. It was an absolute honour to have this chat with Justin – where we cover everything from pioneering & mastering FOMO, explore how to build a world class team to the emergence of COVID-19 and his prediction on it’s impact on the economy – bearing in mind our chat occurred on March 3rd – just prior to the proverbial hitting the fan. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did and extract some key insights into the thinking of one of our industry’s most successful operators. Enjoy.
Transcript

Anthony Denman:
Justin. Welcome to the Property Marketing Podcast.

Justin Brown:
Thank you.

Anthony Denman:
I can’t remember how your name came up, but it came up. And he said Justin, I know Justin. Uh, Justin sold my house for me, back in…

Justin Brown:
Pat Gocher. That would be back in ’92.

Anthony Denman:
1992, so you were a general real estate agent?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, I started in general estate in 1989, after I finished school in 1988. And My father didn’t think my prospects of going to university were that strong. And I had the choice of either paying my father board, or finding a job in real estate, which was what I suggest to him that I wanted to do.

Anthony Denman:
And why? Why?

Justin Brown:
I’ve always had a passion for it. My father had sort of touched on real estate on the side a little bit, it  always just enthralled me, real estate. And so I sort of put under the ultimatum of doing my fathers jobs to pay for the board, or finding a job in real estate, which was quite difficult at the time when you think about it. Because it was heading into the recession.

Anthony Denman:
First one.

Justin Brown:
I came in into real estate, basically as the recession started. And so I effectively marched from Mosman to Parramatta, knocking on real estate agents doors until someone gave me a job which was Raine & Horne Thornleigh

Anthony Denman:
Raine & Horne Thornleigh, there you go.

Justin Brown:
And then from there I managed to get a job at Kirribilli.

Anthony Denman:
Still selling general real estate?

Justin Brown:
Yep. And then she actually, Deborah Richardson was her name, suggested that I probably would be better… I’ll go back a sec. It was actually in property management, and she actually used to-

Anthony Denman:
Do you know, that is such a common story? The amount of highly successful agents I’ve spoken to that started out as letting clerks.

Justin Brown:
And she suggested that I would probably be better in Sales.

Anthony Denman:
Right, did she say why? Do you remember?

Justin Brown:
Probably because like, ill discipline. And met a gentleman by the name Peter Kerras.

Anthony Denman:
Oh yeah, I know Peter.

Justin Brown:
And Peter was setting up his business in Neutral Bay at the time with a guy called Robert Anderson. And I was their first employee. And I said what you have to do is list Auctions. And back in the recession, it was very-

Anthony Denman:
Right.

Justin Brown:
Anyway I’ve managed to learn how to list Auctions. And from there I ended up listing an auction that lead me to getting an interview with Colliers. And I thought I was starting at Colliers about commercial leasing. And they said “No, we’re looking to sell this project marketing business.”

Anthony Denman:
I understand, okay.

Justin Brown:
That’s how it started.

Anthony Denman:
Okay, and so in that moment, did you recognize that… I guess two things. I mean one is, it’s almost like I use the analogy one’s like rugby league, and the other one’s like rugby union.

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
So their both football games, but completely different, right? Would you agree?

Justin Brown:
Totally. And I think it takes a lot, has taken probably 20 years that I’ve been involved in for people to actually understand that a general real estate agent is totally different to a project marketing agent. And when I came through, I always saw there was some disconnect between commercial agency and what was at the time, your general real estate agency. And I think project marketing filled a void, which also had the scale for the commercial real estate agencies wanting to leverage off that. But also, in saying that, you had the guys like John McGrath that came through, that also revolutionized general agency. And took from what was basically, an uneducated person running around with skeptical ethics, to a business.

Justin Brown:
And John and that breed of people lifted the skill level of the general agency. And so I think the whole residential business has lifted dramatically in the last 20 years. And people will come from being good salespeople, to actually having to develop into good business managers.

Anthony Denman:
Which isn’t easy to do, is it?

Justin Brown:
No. It’s probably one of our detriments.

Anthony Denman:
And so what I take from that is, the level of professionalism I guess you’d call it, and diligence, discipline, right?

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
Because most general real estate agents, they love the cut and the thrust.

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
I just finished talking to Bill Malouf and to this day, just loves that cut and thrust, loves the deal making, loves making the impossible happen, loves getting deals across the line. That’s what really sort of flicks his switch. And he recognizes that that’s not his strength. And that really is what makes a very highly successful project marketing business.

Justin Brown:
Yeah because you end up with such a big machine. Like if you get to our peak, which was 2015 we would have been the biggest fee earning real estate business in the country. Above McGrath, or above everyone. And you need to have a corporate structure behind you to actually enable your deal makers, your mavericks to actually succeed, but to keep it in line. And also understand the rigor in what comes with being such a big business.

Anthony Denman:
And how did you, when you were sitting in that Colliers office all those years ago and somebody was talking about this opportunity that at the time, really, there was no one. There was no one doing what you do today than at the scale that you’re currently-

Justin Brown:
No, there were splinters of it.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
And that juncture, I never thought that the heights of these businesses and how large and I suppose how many friendships and how many learnings we’ve got could be.

Anthony Denman:
So, if you’re… Because you’re 30 years you’ve been doing it. So in that moment, in that Colliers office, could never imagine your sort of 50 year old self saying to you as you-

Justin Brown:
Not quite 50.

Anthony Denman:
Sorry. As you’re driving back from that meeting, you could never imagine what it was to become?

Justin Brown:
Oh definitely.

Anthony Denman:
Because that’s sort of what I was thinking. Did you know? Like did you have the foresight? Did you kind of walk out of that meeting going “Wow, I’m on to something really amazing here, and I’m going to…” Could you, at that stage, towards from what I can gather, very successful selling mum’s and dad’s stuff. So you’re taking a leap of faith. You must have thought it was a better opportunity than what you were doing, for you to make that move, right?

Justin Brown:
Yep. So I still felt that the local real estate residential was fragmented. And there’s little bits and pieces everywhere, and the people that are running these businesses weren’t that professional. And it was just like, it was a bit of dad’s army running around.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
And I think I probably, if I look back, took my first opportunities in residential, because there was no way I was going to get an opportunity in commercial. Because it was, we were hitting the recession, everyone was getting slashed, and I always wanted to get into the city. And then I had this opportunity. And Colliers at the time were a very Boutique business. So if you look back, so the big businesses were Jones Lang, at the time, which is Jones Lang Wotton, and also Knight Frank, which was Knight Frank and Hookers. And Richard Ellis and Colliers were the two boutique businesses. And one of the things that I think which I’m quite proud of in terms of businesses that I’ve lead and been partners with my partners, is we, I think we’re forefront in making Colliers name a household name.

Justin Brown:
In terms of when we came out of all the marketing and everything, in the mainstream media, people knew what Colliers was. Whereas before, there were the boutique, there by a guy called Rob McCuaig that came out of England and founded it. And then when CBRE, Richard Ellis and Coldwell Banker formed a company called CBRE. Then we came. I remember I had a friend call me, I said “Oh what are you doing?” It was a Saturday morning. He said “I’m reading the CBRE Daily.” Which was the domain. You know, we had the first 20 pages. And I think that’s one of the proudest things to look back at. We made these companies household names.

Anthony Denman:
I remember actually, and you should see if you do, when you were at Colliers, and it was an article that I picked up on the weekend, can’t remember if it was… I don’t think there was a domain then. I think it was probably page three or early general news or something. And there’s Justin Brown, looking at a model of a building I think it was-

Justin Brown:
In Darwin.

Anthony Denman:
Was it Darwin? It was a high rise and it was like “Project Marketing has Arrived.” And you were the face of it. You were very successful at Colliers in doing exactly what you said. I mean, it was a great segue. Why then did you… Because then that’s another big move isn’t it? You were really successful at a particular organization. What was it that led you to want to then move on to CBRE?

Justin Brown:
Well I think Colliers and I… I was fortunate that they offered me a joint venture for their Asia Pacific business which we ran for ten years. And I think, I was a young man when I started, and I just think we came to a time where we probably both needed a break, and I probably needed a break as well. And that’s when Colliers and I dissolved the joint venture. And I have always had other businesses, which are family businesses that we look after, and I just had a break. And then Richard Ellis approached me or CBRE, approached me.

Justin Brown:
And it was interesting because I had enough time to actually just consider what we really did well at Colliers, I suppose what I did well, what I didn’t do well. And I was lucky that the core team came with me too, when we left Colliers. And then, CBRE approached me, and I said “Look, I really don’t want to get back into that cut and thrust again.” And they actually, Rob Lane and Tom Southern at the time did think laterally. And it was interesting. I thought about it, and I thought “Who annoyed me most when I was at Colliers? Always chipping at me.” And so it was a guy called David Milton. And so David and I caught up, and I said “David, I want to talk you through this concept.” And it was interesting, at the end of the conversation he said “Do you know what? Tell them to forget about it. You and I just do it together.”

Anthony Denman:
What do your own thing together?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Because he was at the time, he has his own business?

Justin Brown:
Yep, Realty Marketing

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, okay yeah.

Justin Brown:
And the next morning, he rang me at 7:00 and he said “Have you called?” And I said “No.” And he said “Don’t. I think they’re right.” But what I’ve learnt from there is, and I think this is one of the great learnings of entrepreneurs or sales people is that, you’re lead so much by your ego and your self importance and the whole thing. It wasn’t until that I met David, and put Tim Rees and David and I together, then Ben Stewart, that the collective is so much more powerful than the individual. And if you look at the success that we’ve had at CBRE, in terms of revenue, it’s three, four, five times fold. And it’s because one plus one can equal three, and four can equal seven. If you actually believe in each other, and not try to cut each other’s necks off, and you work as a team, you offer your clients such a better service, because we balance off each other. And we can actually equal out the stress.

Anthony Denman:
It’s great that you said that, because that was actually one of my questions. I remember quite clearly when it all happened. And it was like “Did you hear? Justin Brown and David Milton are going to be kind of in this thing together.” And everybody was kind of saying it as if to say “Can you imagine that? Can you imagine those guys actually getting on and working together?” And then for you to bring in Tim, and Ben both all very high profile successful real estate agents with big egos. I mean, how do you manage that dynamic?

Justin Brown:
First thing, Tim and I are partners, from the beginning. You know, Tim and I went to school together.

Anthony Denman:
You did, you go way back don’t you? That’s right

Justin Brown:
Yeah so when we started CBRE it was Tim, David and I.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah okay.

Justin Brown:
Ben came in a little later.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, and then a whole lot of others too, right?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, totally.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
But David taught me a lot of things too in terms of how to nurture people and grow a business. And I’ve learned so much from David. And David and I started business partners, and like Ben and Tim, we’re all best mates. In the cut and thrust business like we’re in, it’s great to have just close friends. Because we bounce off each other. If one person needs to do something, the other person will. We cancel out the ego between us. And everyone has an even voice.

Anthony Denman:
Did you, when you were going into this, looking for the right people, was there a criteria for getting on the bus?

Justin Brown:
Well, I’m all about honesty and being upright. And Tim and I grew up together. Tim is the godfather of my son Archie whose birthday was yesterday. Tim and I will always be great mates. I suppose there will probably two or three people, and some of them worked for me before, that I could have chosen as a partner coming together. But David I think had a different angle, whereas we were probably more corporate focused on the high end. What I thought we missed was more of that cut and thrust, sales management, more the smaller builder market, developer market, which David was number one. And coming together, I think David saw skills coming up and coming down, and holistically it worked for us, obviously.

Justin Brown:
And then, I think we were very lucky. There was a lady called Becky Frankham. And Becky is the fifth cog to our wheel in New South Wales, who is operations director, and actually is the glue that holds us all together.

Anthony Denman:
Becky, right, yeah. And she’s been with you…

Justin Brown:
Oh for a long time now, for ten years.

Anthony Denman:
Wow okay, because I’ve never heard you mention her before, and never seen her.

Justin Brown:
Well Becky’s the young unsung hero. She’s an amazing woman.

Anthony Denman:
Did you recruit her collectively? Or how did that-

Justin Brown:
No, David originally. And probably I caused her a bit of angst to start with, which learnt I was wrong. And as a business group, we were pushing… Every weekend we’d have two or three launches. We were just at the edge.

Anthony Denman:
Just so much going on there, right?

Justin Brown:
And then there’d be someone that held the business together. Plus also we’re like, expanding, and you know we’ve got an amazing guy, Andrew Leoncelli who runs our Melbourne business. Darien, who’s also godfather to my third son, Hugo, who went to school with Tim and I who runs Asia, and then Paul who runs Brisbane and Nick who runs Gold Coast. And so we’re growing so quickly that we needed business manager. And that was Becky.

Anthony Denman:
In terms of your recruitment strategy, it seems to me that you don’t take those decisions lightly, for people in high profile.

Justin Brown:
No. On the upper level, I probably take more responsibility. But with David, Tim, and Ben’s input, on the sales management marketing, that is predominantly left to David in his domain. David is the best sales manager that I’ve come across. He knows how to motivate, how to push.

Anthony Denman:
And his product knowledge is unbelievable.

Justin Brown:
Yeah, is second to none, yeah. I think we’ve got that ability to have that grunt behind it. Whereas Tim and my ability and Ben has been creating that hype for these big developments that come through. And it’s just been a good model.

Anthony Denman:
So you choose your lieutenants wisely?

Justin Brown:
I think in this business, if you can get great people that you have trust, and that’s the reason we’re number one. We trust each other, and we can lean on each other. And all our competitors still wanted to be Mavericks. I wanted to be a Maverick when I was 35. I learnt that it’s actually better to be part of a good team.

Anthony Denman:
When you say Maverick, you mean…?

Justin Brown:
Oh most real estate agents or of high successful entrepreneurs and the like want to be number one. If you can actually get past that and understand that a team is better than your individualness.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, no it’s a really good valuable proposition isn’t it? Like a lesson in humility, right?

Justin Brown:
Well, but maybe as you get older.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
You have to cut humility, mortality.

Anthony Denman:
Humility, what’s humility? If you could have a chat to your younger self, go back, talk to Justin Brown when he was just starting out, is there any kind of sage words of advice you’d have for him?

Justin Brown:
Think. I ended up in such a vortex. There was one ahead of me, Jeremy Alp.

Anthony Denman:
I remember him.

Justin Brown:
Really it was a 30 year professional and myself coming through. And I was just determined that I had to catch him. And I worked myself to a bone, and the market ran with us, and literally was in a vortex. If I looked back and I could say to someone now, “If you actually had taken some time, or had some infrastructure around you to put skills and disciplines and assistance in place, how much further that business could have gone, and how much more sustainable that business could have become.” And if you look at CBs, the amount of money that’s been driven by David and Becky in terms of our systems and our… It is such a sustainable business. Our database, even how we track our clients, and the like. This is a different league than we’re in, obviously, we’re talking 30 years ago. But this is a whole new world as you would know.

Anthony Denman:
Just on that, I mean if I can take you back again, can you remember the first major project that you worked on?

Justin Brown:
I think if it was not the first, it was close, The Goldbrough Mort.

Anthony Denman:
Right!

Justin Brown:
Here I was, a boy from North Shore who’d been selling some auctions in Neutral Bay, and next thing, I met the likes of Dennis O’Neil and Ian Joy, and yourself. And it’s like, at one of the most expensive places. I remember, the taxi to drop me off and it took me about ten minutes to walk up the driveway. I’m going “Where am I?”

Anthony Denman:
Dennis’ place?

Justin Brown:
Oh it was Ian Joy’s I think.

Anthony Denman:
Oh is it? Sorry.

Justin Brown:
And I was just going “Oh my god. What a life. What’s happened to me?” And next thing I know, I’m being sent around the world literally every weekend, selling this thing.

Anthony Denman:
Dodging mobile phones in the process.

Justin Brown:
Oh and I remember this first weekend launch that initially, people were coming up in lifts, and they couldn’t get out they were so packed. People were putting fingers on floor plans without even bedrooms. And the frame, its just like, it was just like “Oh my God. What’s happened here?” But, I mean that’s in ’93. Things have tightened up these days that like, if you think back 30 years ago it was like… And because there really had been an under supply for ten years, and suddenly this development came through. And we were there. And you were there. I remember saying to you “Ant, you must do this. And it’s got to be done by next weekend.”

Anthony Denman:
Pretty tough. We had a pretty tough…

Justin Brown:
But we all, we worked like there was nothing, no tomorrow.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah okay so that’s probably the very first example of FOMO, right? On that.

Justin Brown:
Oh yeah. It was ridiculous.

Anthony Denman:
What did you learn from that?

Justin Brown:
Oh, this, at least in the future, that there should be some preparation. I look it was, it was like getting hit by a cyclone for four hours. And literally, at the end of it, just not knowing what happened to me from the beginning.

Anthony Denman:
“Where’s the money?”

Justin Brown:
And there was money everywhere, it was just like, ‘Oh.” And then we had to try to work it out overnight to back up the next morning. But I mean that was the start. It’s suddenly become a lot more sophisticated since then. If you look at the major launches that we’ve done with the likes of Lendlease, that we’ve sold 500 units in four hours, where everything is disciplined.

Anthony Denman:
Talk to me about that then. If we could, maybe it’s like well let’s say on one hand we’ve got that experience in ’93, and then we’ve got what… You see what I was going to ask you what has been your most successful project? Now, when I talk about success that doesn’t necessarily mean most financially successful, but success in however you want to gauge success.

Justin Brown:
I think that there’s different things. We get really personally involved with our clients, and we really have a loyalty with our clients. And I think that’s one thing that David Milton actually said when he made the decision to join with Tim and I, was that in his view, we had the same ethics or beliefs as he did, that our clients followed us. So whether we’re selling 5, or 10, or 1000 units, our clients are our friends and we all bust ourselves to get there. And some of the most rewarding things is seeing some of our friends and that really struggling to get over the line, and we’ve got them there.

Justin Brown:
And then you look at some of the, I suppose the more commercial big successes. The one like Lendlease’s Barangaroo was an amazing success. I remember speaking to an amazing guy whose one of the senior people at Lendlease and he said JB, how can you sell this at 30% more than King Street Wharf? And yet we sold out in three hours. And then Lendlease were very disciplined and kept managing the prices and the expectations up. And then we moved on to that. And we probably did a hundred in three years. But Darling square was an amazing example for Lendlease as well. 500 in five hours.

Anthony Denman:
500 apartments or million?

Justin Brown:
Yep, 500 apartments in five hours.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, which would have been obviously at least 500…

Justin Brown:
Yeah, but we did it a couple times at Darling square with Lendlease. And Lendlease put in… they took, analyzed our structure, and then their own structure with our structure. And they tested us the whole way through to make sure that all the clients were getting fairly, and making sure they’re maximizing the price along the way. And to sell that amount of product could not be a more orderly situation.

Justin Brown:
But I suppose one starting on this cycle coming through was Galileo near Chatswood metro. Galileo, one of our foundation clients, they’re an amazing group of people. I remember the meeting at their office, it was at one Alfred street, which is Goldfields which is ironic. And Neil and his great lieutenant Paul went into a multi location international launch. And that was the start of the market. We’d launched here, we’d launch Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, boom. And I remember we sold them out and sold them out and that was that start of that market. And if you look back at the previous cycle where we copped the flack at the time, where we launched Hyde. Remember the front page? The Hyde of you? And at the time, our clients were nervous, but that was the start of that market. And I think that’s something that we’ve been able to do in not only Sydney, but in all markets that we’re predominant in, we set market.

Anthony Denman:
That’s great because I want to ask you a question. You mentioned that you set the pricing at 30% higher than what was achieved at King Street Wharf.

Justin Brown:
Which was next door.

Anthony Denman:
How do you do that? I mean, how do you? Because, and I mentioned earlier in the intro that CBRE being responsible for selling roughly 80% of all of the premium real estate in Sydney that’s eight O. That’s a huge domination of any market place. So I have a couple questions, actually. So the first one is, how do you list? I mean how do you list projects like that? I mean then I think I’ve got a fair idea as how you keep them, because you mentioned those incredibly valuable traits that you have such as loyalty and being committed to your clients and never letting them down. And I’ve seen that too, like I’ve seen that first hand. I hear about it all the time. It’s no question that you’re going to be the guy for a particular development because of what you’ve done previously. But how do you list a project of that scale?

Justin Brown:
We obviously have to pitch.

Anthony Denman:
Yes I was going to ask you about it. Because I did see the other day, when I ran into you at CBRE, you preparing for what appeared to be an incredibly fancy luncheon where there was a dozen chefs running around in the kitchen preparing incredibly good food. And you were about to kind of meet some people in the board room and you had your trusted people with you going into that meeting.

Justin Brown:
I suppose I’m probably the chief pitcher in those things.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
And what’s quite ironic is that that’s not my forte.

Anthony Denman:
It’s not your forte?

Justin Brown:
Oh I hate public speaking. I hate really having to pitch. But in life you have to learn to do what you have to do. But I think what we come across is we try to think what is really needed for each project, and from our experience, where there’s a difference. And then we drive at that. So we strive at pointing at a difference, we strive that we have the systems, we strive that we’ve developed these databases. You know, 34% of our sales last year, through our database. No other agency group has ever got that system that David and Becky put together. In the city, it’s actually 54%. We start off at 54% advantage against our competitors.

Anthony Denman:
That’s a huge advantage.

Justin Brown:
So the Colliers or whoever else, they’re behind us before they start, right? Because selling 80% of it, and managing it, that’s the database we bring forward.

Anthony Denman:
That certainly, as a vendor that’s got to be very attractive.

Justin Brown:
It is. But they also want to know that this is not just a repeat of the old, and so that we’ve very much focused on how we reposition each project and do it. And then I think the other thing that is highly important, if you look at our premier sales team, they’ve been with us for a long, long time. They’re exceptional, they’re experts. They’ve sold generally at least twelve premium apartments. None of our competitors have had that. So if it gets to that next layer, please meet be our sales team.

Anthony Denman:
And that’s what you were doing the other day in that luncheon?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, totally, meet them. Understand why a buyer will feel comfortable. One, because they will know someone in our business. If they should be in your market for so long, if you’ve done the right thing by people, they’ll keep coming back.

Anthony Denman:
If i could take you back to that Goldsbrough moment, okay sorry. Sorry to do that.

Justin Brown:
We’re trying to move on.

Anthony Denman:
Sorry to do that to you. But the FOMO I guess.

Justin Brown:
Yes, we create FOMO. And that has been one of our great skills for 30 years. But you have to have the right product. And there’s been many, many times that we have lost jobs, or are being put under undue pressure because I will not put my friends into something that I believe is wrong.

Anthony Denman:
What do you mean by that? Sorry.

Justin Brown:
Well, there’s a perception that, as I spoke before about CBRE’s database, and my friends, and Tim’s friends and David’s friends, Ben’s friends. It’s all well and good. But I enjoy walking down the street in Mosman or walking own Pitt street or George street. I’m not here to put someone into something that I don’t feel is right. And so there’s been pressure over the time, the ups and downs where we used to go look.

Anthony Denman:
Are talking about saying saying no?

Justin Brown:
Yes.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah okay.

Justin Brown:
And that’s a really hard thing to do, but there are times, and if you look back, it’s actually been the best times for by business, in that, said “No, I’m not going to suggest to my good friends to buy something that I just feel is… I don’t like the mathematics of it”

Anthony Denman:
Well that’s really interesting too because that kind of takes me to the… Where are we? February 2020. That’s been the third, I think the third cycle we’ve been through.

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
In regards to cycles Howard Marks I think it was I heard this from, he is one of Warren Buffet’s right hand men. And he was talking about cycles, and he was saying that you can almost set your watch by it, right? They’re coming every eight or ten years. You know they’re coming. The only thing that changes is the cause, the duration, and the depth.

Justin Brown:
Yep. So our cycle’s a bit different. We sort of know what the duration is, which is generally around ten, eleven years.

Anthony Denman:
Ten eleven, okay.

Justin Brown:
Yep. So we’re right in it at the moment and ironically, we’ve got the virus running around.

Anthony Denman:
Oh can you believe it? It’s been like one thing after another, right?

Justin Brown:
Six weeks ago, you got like, here we go. But let’s look at it properly. Our market in Sydney really started to come back after the AMP launch at Loftus Lane, which we had that sellout that weekend, if you remember?

Anthony Denman:
Yep.

Justin Brown:
And that was July 2017.

Anthony Denman:
Yep.

Justin Brown:
And we’re now heading toward July 2020. And generally, over ten, we have a ten to eleven year cycle. And we have about three years, that’s off. That’s about right. But also in the macro terms that the market’s been running, there normally is left of field thing that causes something. And this time, it’s coronavirus. But what do I think’s going to happen? I think it will correct itself.

Anthony Denman:
Because 2020 started off like, it was almost like a… Compared to last year which was 2019, you see things a lot earlier than I do, but I walked into 2020, and just, lots of opport-

Justin Brown:
Yeah but if you look at it, the first two thirds of last year were just a hopeless. Then you started having the riots in Hong Kong, and every time there’s something in Asia that causes a disturbance, they look for a safe haven. And so, we started to get sales that are coming from Hong Kong. And our best month in four years, January this year. We made 32 sales out of Hong Kong in January. Then bang, the virus starts. So you look at it, but then in saying that, we sent out EDM for a Neutral Bay project, and it was the highest rate we’ve seen from hits from Hong Kong in ten years.

Anthony Denman:
What, just recently?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, yesterday.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah wow.

Justin Brown:
So, I think it’s brewing, it’s a bit of a bottleneck. So when this actually does open up, it’s going to push.

Anthony Denman:
We’re due aren’t we?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Like you said it’s just one thing after the other.

Justin Brown:
So it’s about to come back through.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
And I do think we’re going to have quite a strong push through.

Anthony Denman:
Do you personally, are you able to capitalize on cycles? Do you feel as though you’ve got the intel to be able to invest in certain areas to ensure that you… Well I think two things. One is to weather the storm, and then subsequently to capitalize on the upswing. Do you have a strategy on that?

Justin Brown:
Well I think in later life, I’ve learnt to actually try and breathe and think about things more. I suppose a lot of people will think “Well, these guys are at the forefront, they must know.” When it’s full on, you don’t get a chance to smell the roses. You literally, you’re so involved, and you’re so under the pump 24/7 that you just do not get a chance to really think ahead other than the next launch, next launch, and next launch. And that’s how intense it was.

Justin Brown:
And I think that you have this natural thing as a salesman that you just want to believe that “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And you believe in others. But I suppose as you get older, you start to think about it. And yes, you start to see things, and you hope anyway after all these cycles. Yeah, and so our guys are postioining themselves forward.

Anthony Denman:
We’ve done a few high profile successful projects together where we’ve created interesting direct marketing pieces, posters, canvas prints, little bags with jewelry type pieces in them and printed surfboards.

Justin Brown:
Well there’s two or three probably that ring in my mind. The one that we did at Sydney Wharf.

Anthony Denman:
Yes.

Justin Brown:
With Charter Hall?

Anthony Denman:
Yes.

Justin Brown:
Which was a first of a kind, that piece, in a beautiful felt bag we said to people….

Anthony Denman:
Yeah it was like a direct mail piece which had a metallic cover and it was inside of beautiful kind of bag inside a box. And the whole idea was that you unwrap this gift. And it felt like an expensive piece of jewelry, and it was targeted to…

Justin Brown:
High net worth.

Anthony Denman:
High net worth individuals. And that was on the back of, we did something way back when with Mirvac, Message in a Bottle, this whole…

Justin Brown:
Yep, and I remember getting that Message in a Bottle. Well in fact, that’s not quite true. I went to my parents’ house, and I had the message in the bottle, they go “What is this?” And I bought one.

Anthony Denman:
Oh you did?

Justin Brown:
Thought I didn’t but, it’s a good point for Mirvac.

Anthony Denman:
That was in Walsh Bay, you had done very, very well.

Justin Brown:
Yes, but I sold it too early. But you were one of the first, or if not the first to do it. I remember that one with Charter Hall, I remember the print that we did at..

Anthony Denman:
The Bondi.

Justin Brown:
The Bondi, there. And then probably the most successful of all was that surfboard.

Anthony Denman:
Which was the property agency you did that with, Eduard and Allen?

Justin Brown:
Yep. And I was going to say, it was strongly led by the client, and then you’ve got to credit to Eduard and Allen and Gil. yeah it was a tough, tough time in the market. It was post GFC, and we really had to come out of the box to get something. And Eduard and Allen in particular, they… And we’ve done a lot in particularly with Allen over the years, and “What do we have to do…” and we produced this amazing display. And then it was this concept that came up at about, you’d need to be an executive from the city that wants to surf. So the concept was to have these people in tuxedos from the neck to the waste, board shorts, and then thongs with a surfboard, will not leave someone’s reception until they took the surfboard. And a gift.

Anthony Denman:
Oh, okay, so it was delivered by someone dressed like…

Justin Brown:
Yes, had to be dressed like this. So I had all these guys roaming around the city in tuxes from the top, board shorts and thongs. And it was like, sophisticated.

Anthony Denman:
Classy.

Justin Brown:
And, said “Where are we going to get all of these surfboards?” And it was Gill Barrett, and he said I thought he knew someone from China. And we thought “Oh this is going to be great, we’re going end up with all these surfboards that are going to break in half.” And Allen got someone to test the surfboards, who said “They work.”

Anthony Denman:
No, mate, you know I’m a surfer, they were made beautifully, and they look beautiful, and that timber finish.

Justin Brown:
And we still go into offices and the surfboards, they… I have it in my beach house. I think it is probably the greatest piece.

Anthony Denman:
Have you used it?

Justin Brown:
No. No I haven’t.

Anthony Denman:
I took a photo of it, and by the way, the whole other stuff as per usual, you’ll be able to see on the show notes, we’ll put that as well as other stuff in.

Justin Brown:
It was amazing. It started. People said, it was that thing it was like “Did you get one of those surfboards? I didn’t get one. I got a ring. Why didn’t I get a surfboard?”

Anthony Denman:
“Why didn’t I get a surfboard?”

Justin Brown:
And I started this thing, and it got the the right people.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah that’s really interesting to hear, because I wasn’t sure if it was still a thin, if it still worked.

Justin Brown:
No, no, I think it was one of the greatest pieces of marketing that I’ve been involved in. And Allen and Eduard had a vision. And they created the vision in the end of the day, and the people actually believed in the vision.

Anthony Denman:
Correct, it just, probably yeah, one of the most amazing projects. All I remember, was there was these rumors about them wanting to sell the site.

Justin Brown:
Mm-hmm it was a tough time, mate.

Anthony Denman:
And they wanted like an incredibly high price per square meter, and everyone I was talking to was saying “they’re crazy, no one will ever pay it. Da da da.” So then they go out, and they have the balls, right?

Justin Brown:
Yep, well he had this launch, and we had people lined up, and we had Benny Stewart and Caroline Fagerlund and Tim Rees, and the buyers rolled through. I’ll never forget getting a phone call from Eduard that night, and just saying “Browny. No wonder you guys are number one.” But, credit to them.

Anthony Denman:
Totally credit to them

Justin Brown:
That’s a huge call coming out of the GFC.

Anthony Denman:
Eduard, you’ve got to come on the podcast, mate.

Justin Brown:
And Allen.

Anthony Denman:
And Allen.

Justin Brown:
Both of them,

Anthony Denman:
Get them together.

Justin Brown:
Let me tell you also, Eduard, Allen, they are very tough, tough masters.

Anthony Denman:
They are tough, they are tough.

Justin Brown:
Yeah, they’re visionary.

Anthony Denman:
It’s hard I’ll tell you from a marketing guy’s perspective, it’s hard to turn a profit with those guys..

Justin Brown:
Yeah, but…

Anthony Denman:
But they give you an amazing portfolio.

Justin Brown:
They do.

Anthony Denman:
The work that they do, and the stuff that you create for them really does stand you in good sted for winning future work.

Justin Brown:
I suppose that one of the most important things is that our business is built on repeat clients. And 70% of our business is repeat clients.

Anthony Denman:
That’s amazing.

Justin Brown:
Why?

Anthony Denman:
You must be very proud of that.

Justin Brown:
Yeah and that’s, I go back to one of the first things that I said before about my partnership with David is one of his things was that we always had repeat clients, and that’s the thing about David as well.

Anthony Denman:
What if any, I’m sure there is incredible value in it, but what value does the CBRE brand add to the marketing of the project?

Justin Brown:
Well I think it’s a number of things. If you take in this current market, I think it’s huge. Where there’s speculation, when you’re worried about construction risk, viruses step in the light. CBRE is fortune 243 company in the world. They know CBRE’s not going to walk away. So a purchaser, if they’re weighing one against the other, they will actually go “Well, these guys are going to be there.” The other thing is to build a project marketing business of ours to the magnitude where it got to, you couldn’t do it with two individuals in terms of needing the financial backing and the cash flow, the insurances, and be enough to provide that grunt of stability for the Lendleases and The Stocklands and… You can’t get to as big as this business got without backing on that.

Justin Brown:
And also, the other thing too is it is the biggest international real estate business in the world.

Anthony Denman:
Is it really?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Wow.

Justin Brown:
And so, it gives us opportunity everywhere. You look at our agency business.

Anthony Denman:
The general agency business?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah I was going to ask you about that.

Justin Brown:
Which is one of our fasted growing businesses.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah that popped up what, last year was it? Or the year before?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, eighteen months? You know, they are performing so well.

Anthony Denman:
And is that resales or is it just whatever you can list.

Justin Brown:
Well, we want to sell two million and above.

Anthony Denman:
Oh okay so it’s premium.

Justin Brown:
Yep. Definitely a premium. And if you look at it I think we have resale last year at 3.8 million. And that links through our business which is a joint venture of ours between the UK all the way through Middle East, Asia, and here. And there’s others to report to have this network and the like.

Anthony Denman:
Yes.

Justin Brown:
But you know, we actually do. We’re not franchises. We actually have one string through.

Anthony Denman:
And you work together?

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
Because you’re right, 100%. It’s funny, I was speaking to Bill Malouf the other day, and he said that when he started out, I mean I asked him the question. I kind of knew the answer which was why… Because he was a late bloomer, in his time he was 35, when he started general agency sales. I said “Why did you pick Double Bay?” He said “Mate, it’s just as easy to sell a $5,000,000.00 home as it is a $500,000.00 one.”

Justin Brown:
That’s easy for Bill to say. There’s not many Bills.’ Yeah, and I think it’s a thing.

Anthony Denman:
It’s a business model.

Justin Brown:
Every industry has it. How many people atop of Double Bay? How many people atop of Mosman? How many people atop of project marketing? How many people atop of accountantcy?

Anthony Denman:
Very point end, isn’t it?

Justin Brown:
Yep so it is what it is.

Anthony Denman:
Have you had any fail?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
And what did you learn from it?

Justin Brown:
Generally I’ve learnt that I’ve been very disappointed in myself. In that I’ve either misread the market, or not been disciplined enough with the client to say “This is where the market is at, and this is what you have to do.” Because invariably, most clients come in, and they are our clients, so we have to listen. But they will say “Oh, my aunty wants to do this, and blah blah blah.” And it ends up getting chopped up, and the focus and discipline is lost. And the thing about development, to succeed in development, is about focus and discipline. And it’s from the developer, to the marketer, to the finance to and the builder, the whole thing, you’ve got to keep disciplined. If you look for all the successful developers, they have rigor and discipline.

Anthony Denman:
And focus.

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
And it’s tough, right? Focus is like the number one thing, isn’t it?

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
You know what I mean? Staying focused.

Justin Brown:
And if I’m honest with myself, and I said it to one of my clients last week, I think we’ve probably lost a bit of our rigor and focus last year. A highly tuned sales force can only really stay fully whacked, twelve years.

Anthony Denman:
Twelve years?

Justin Brown:
I think its ten, once you get to twelve…

Anthony Denman:
How do you gauge that? Instinctive?

Justin Brown:
I just think I’ve seen it three times.

Anthony Denman:
Three times you’ve seen it.

Justin Brown:
And you know, last year I think we probably wavered. But the market was off, and it probably let us waver as well. Whereas I look at my team that have come back this year, and they are so fired, they’re so focused, and they are ready.

Anthony Denman:
Is that something that you do to change that?

Justin Brown:
I just, I think we all had a really good come to Jesus moment at the latter end of last year, to “What are we? Are we still what we are?”

Anthony Denman:
Was that a board room meeting?

Justin Brown:
I think the board room is really of eight and the idea is Andrew from Melbourne, Paul from Brisbane, Nick from the Gold Coast, and then the five down here. And it’s like guys. Well, personally, I’m not going to be here unless we’re number one. When that’s just… And it’s like, are we going to take the next cycle, is our team ready.

Anthony Denman:
Did you get like an immediate response in that environment?

Justin Brown:
No they were already. Everyone just wanted a break. Everyone needed to breathe.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
Some, they went every different way, but they’ve come back, and they’re energized. And they want to go again.

Anthony Denman:
And you can feel that?

Justin Brown:
Yep. But it’s a funny thing, you know, as much as we’ve tried and tried and tried, you could sense it was slipping last year. We had run so long. A motor can only run so long. I watched that movie, Ford vs Ferrari.

Anthony Denman:
Oh is it good? I haven’t seen it yet.

Justin Brown:
You can only go so far and they just ran out of gas. And it is like, they guys been… He can’t be at the top of the tree for that long without having a break. And so they all went away. We all did. And the enthusiasm, everyone’s back. You can see the market coming back again. And sales people, there’s light in front of them.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, I think anyone to a certain degree do, like you need some sort of carrot don’t you?

Justin Brown:
And we can see, it starts off with the boutique project. We’ve got, we had an amazing one for Walker Group. We sold eleven out of seventeen $2,000,000.00 apartments on the weekend.

Anthony Denman:
Great.

Justin Brown:
We’ve done five in Sydney, the market’s coming.

Anthony Denman:
That’s great.

Justin Brown:
And then we’re also seeing the deck chairs are starting to shuffle as well of like, all throughout the corporate clients. You know, our past clients are moving around too?

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
And you look at an amazing job, it was an Epping with CBUS and then last year, from June we refocused it with the CBUS team, and really focused on Hong Kong and doubled the sales, and it’s continued to push through. And so I think it’s good times.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah good, I’m glad to hear that.

Justin Brown:
But I think what’s going to be a real focus going forward, and it’s a bit self prophecy, but I think the agency, people are going to go all “Do I have any leverage or callback on? Who is this real estate agent?” Which I obviously think CBRE… I think they’re going to go really hard at the developer who is the developer. So I think the likes of CBUS, Lendlease, Mirvac, Stockland, Toga…. And then they’re really going to look at the builders. Is it Crookes. It’s Ceerose… They’re going to look at delivery. But I think we’re going through that phase at the moment, whereas reputation of the last five years was undervalued. I think that’s going to now change for the next two years.

Anthony Denman:
Can I ask have you sort of… I mean you mentioned way back when that you felt as though a hands-on role might be more suited to you than an academic one. Have you, in your time, are there any courses that you’ve done or any books that you’ve read that have resonated with you that you feel as though have kind of helped you on your way a bit? Or is it all just being pure cole faces?

Justin Brown:
I’m a mad reader.

Anthony Denman:
You are?

Justin Brown:
Yep, and I read a lot of biographies, and a load of, read fiction. And a lot of it is to actually get in to bed, is just to try and calm the mind. But if I can say one thing that has touched me recent times, I went to a charity thing Saturday night for a young kid called Alex Noble. He was about this kid that’s sixteen, and he became a quadriplegic. They had this charity and blah blah blah. And he’s come through, and the way he’s brought himself through, and is now a seventeen year old boy. You just, how inspiring.

Anthony Denman:
What’s his story?

Justin Brown:
Well, he was a boy at sixteen that was a rugby player at Riverview, he was trying out I think-

Anthony Denman:
Think I read that story in the papers.

Justin Brown:
Yep. And he was quadriplegic.

Anthony Denman:
Really good looking?

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
Had it all.

Justin Brown:
Then bang. Had it all, bang.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
And so he could have gone either way. Like “The world’s gone against me, blah blah blah.” Anyway, so he’s managed. And Riverview’s obviously now I’ve got nothing to do with Riverview, but amazing and they’ve kept these mates together.

Anthony Denman:
Riverview’s a private school in North Shore Sydney.

Justin Brown:
And this kid got up there and spoke for twenty five minutes in his wheelchair, but he could move his arms and the like. And I was so inspired, that is what life’s about. That’s what I want my boys to basically, see.

Anthony Denman:
Isn’t that great? It’s funny you should say that because I’ve got a young family of my own as you know, and the last thing you would expect me to made a say that I… If there’s one or two or three things I can teach my children, it’s: number one, is be grateful. Like seriously, for every single little thing, just be eternally grateful for it. And be humble, right? Show humility. Because I think that that really helps you with your focus.

Justin Brown:
I think it’s really important. Humility is huge.

Anthony Denman:
Because that’s where there’s two things there that are being sadly lacking in my life for a number of years, that I think that if I had somebody who had led me that, down that path… And you know, I talked about what would your older self say. And for me, my older self would be just “Anthony, just be grateful, and be humble, and stay focused.” I think then you can-

Justin Brown:
Yep, but I think it’s really hard for most people to get to about 30, or 35. You Know how it is?

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. We had a lot of fun, right?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, mortality.

Anthony Denman:
We had a lot of fun.

Justin Brown:
We had great success, when we were young.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
But it’s holding that together, because a lot of people can’t hold it together.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, no.

Justin Brown:
But talking about kids, I had to laugh the other day. So I try on weekends, I’m very much dedicated to get to my kids sporting and the like.

Anthony Denman:
Good.

Justin Brown:
And I’m very blessed. I met my wife through my work.

Anthony Denman:
You’ve been married for a long time, haven’t you?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
How many years?

Justin Brown:
Well we’ve bene together 20 years, and then she’s probably the only woman in the world that can put up with me. And she’s fabulous, Brookie. I try my best to get to my kids sporting and that, and then I like to take them to see developments we;re building or different things, and they hate it, with a passion. And so my middle child Archie, who turned twelve yesterday, we’re driving down to look at this thing at Cremorne, and I said “Archie, what are you going to do, do you think when you grow up?” And he said “Hmm, I think I’m gong to be a comic artist.” And I said “I don’t know If that’s going to keep you in the lifestyle you’re accustomed to.” And he goes “Hmm. I think I’ll marry a property woman.” And I think, if you want to close your remark, that young man, he’s worked it out.

Anthony Denman:
Marry a property…

Justin Brown:
Marry a property woman.

Anthony Denman:
… Woman.

Justin Brown:
So he can just be a comic artist. He goes If you look through it, it says I don’t want the stress, probably.

Anthony Denman:
There’s all this talk around place reation at the moment, and marketing agencies wanting to get in early and kind of help design projects. In regards to place making, I’m interested in what you think about that, but I’m more interested in how much influence you have in that regard. Like do you see a master plan and just go “Right. You need this that and the other thing to get this project to drive purchasers to conversion.”

Justin Brown:
Well I think there’s a couple things. I think there is a master plan high density, being of high density, and yes, we’re very involved. I was at Campbelltown today and I look at things that Creation homes, Mirvac, Stockland are doing. And that is a different influence than we have.

Anthony Denman:
Sorry, what do you mean by that?

Justin Brown:
In the ways that I don’t think we can really offer a skill-base in the way that they’ve set up these sort of more broad acre master plans. I think that going forward, there’s going to be more influence on place making, Yeah, I do. And I think what’s going to happen, is it’s going to get more intensified going forward. And so what might have been five acres will become two and a half acres, and you’re trying to put everything into that two and half acres. And I think what will become is build to rent, and the like multifamily, in terms that you’re gong to have effectively, lots versus lots. In terms of you might have 800 units, houses, town houses in this owned by, let’s just say it’s Stockland. And then over here they’ll be the same let’s say it’s owned by Mirvac. Over here let’s say it’s owned by Oxford and that. And they will compete against each other in terms of what services is offered.

Justin Brown:
And if you look at the US now becoming into the European market, it’s a highly sought market in terms of the offering. And the yields in the US from a multifamily enclaves are tighter than office buildings and the like.

Anthony Denman:
Multifamily, what does that mean?

Justin Brown:
Well, if you look at it, in the US, one of the biggest asset classes is multifamily. S you can have blocks of units that are built from 1,000 to 10,000 apartments, and they’re communities. And so how much better you manage and operate that community, is how better your yield will be.

Anthony Denman:
And now what do you mean by multifamily? Are you talking about generations of families?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, so you’ll have something that… Like we sold one for $1Billion right? Which is just, someone owns blocks of the units that are rental. And so all the services and everything and how efficient everything that is, is what that value is, also intrinsic to the land value.

Anthony Denman:
I understand. Okay.

Justin Brown:
Yep, and so what’s going to happen here, is it will come here. And so what you’ll find is you’ll have a plot that if Stockland buys it or Mirvac buys it or Oxford or Blackstone, and they’ll all have to compete it against each other in terms of the rent, and then what services they offer.

Anthony Denman:
The amenity.

Justin Brown:
Amenity, yeah.

Anthony Denman:
And so you see yourself being well positioned to be able to add commentary on that? Out of all…

Justin Brown:
Well CBRE is because they’re the biggest in the world at that model. But I think it’s something we all need to start to get upskilled . Because people, if you think about it, we already have (I think Harry Triguboff said it) a massive build to rent model, it’s called negative gearing. it’s everywhere.

Anthony Denman:
Yes.

Justin Brown:
But it’s going to get professionalized.

Anthony Denman:
Right, okay. So we’re coming up to your database, and we talked about it being kind of the single… One of the most important salient features that you have in your offer in terms of being able to kind of list these amazing projects.

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
And we also talked about you having 80… % percent eight zero of the premier in market in Sydney and establishing all these new lifestyle precincts, and getting 30% more than King Street Wharf, so on and so forth. So in terms of your database, we talked abut the magnitude of it, but I guess within that database must be a host of the country’s highest net worth individuals?

Justin Brown:
Yup.

Anthony Denman:
That’s a huge responsibility. How do you keep them interested and make sure that they continue to want to subscribe to the CBRE offer?

Justin Brown:
Well I think it’s self perpetuating. So, if you have the best offering, people come. And I you have the best people, you end up getting the best offering. And I know that sounds a little bit flippant. But I touched on it before, that one of my mantras has been that I will not, and I’ve lost jobs over the years because I just won’t put people I know or friends into something that I don’t think is the right thing. It’s been really hard at the time when, because the developers were under pressure and they’re going “JB we know if you’ve rang ten people you can make them buy.” And I think “Yeah well that’s great. You’ll run off into the yonder. And I’ll walk down the street in Pitt St or wherever.” And they go “Thanks JB.” And so you know, heaps of times that you have to sort of think “well, this is what I think is right.”

Anthony Denman:
Talking about that, walking down the street. Have any of those people those high net worth individuals of whom you would have been, had a huge exposure to over the years, have any of them become mentors to you?

Justin Brown:
Yeah. A number have.

Anthony Denman:
Is there one…?

Justin Brown:
I think Garry Rothwell is an amazing individual.

Anthony Denman:
What did he teach you?

Justin Brown:
When I start, really, he was one of the first guys that really gave me a chance when I was a kid in ’93. And I just think he’s shown me that you can be a good person and succeed. And I’ve a lot of other great friends, and great people, but that’s probably what I remember. And the other one also, is my father. And my father’s an amazing man. He came from nothing, and he strived and built a career. And then at the end of the day, he probably took a hit for his family and his friends. He’s just a great, solid man.

Anthony Denman:
Is he still alive?

Justin Brown:
Oh, of course.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah?

Justin Brown:
We call him the Malley Bull. He still plays comp squash.

Anthony Denman:
Does he really? How old is he?

Justin Brown:
Yeah he’d be about 75.

Anthony Denman:
Wow. Plays comp squash. Crazy, 75.

Justin Brown:
He told me the other day…

Anthony Denman:
That’s so good.

Justin Brown:
… “It’s your genes son.” I’m blessed with my parents. I’m very blessed by my parents and my wife.

Anthony Denman:
Sounds it. What is your formula for allocating budgets? Do you have a formula for allocating budgets for, off the plan marketing?

Justin Brown:
Well back in the day, it used to be Mirvac and the likes would have about 1.5%. When we’re at our peak, we got down to about 0.55%.

Anthony Denman:
0.55 wow.

Justin Brown:
I think at the moment we’re running about 1.25%.

Anthony Denman:
And that is because of the power of your database?

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
Pure and simple.

Justin Brown:
A lot of it became, it was more intensified. And I think also if you look at it, the marketing’s intensified versus the longevity that you had to do. If you go back today, you had to put X amount of money into the display suites and the like. Whereas as technology came through and the ability and, I mean Anthony, what you guys did with Victor in CGI’s and the like, people could visualize what they were buying.

Anthony Denman:
Okay, that’s interesting.

Justin Brown:
And so we forward. Pushed it. And we had to, because coming out of the GFC, no one would lend a developer any money unless we pre sold 100% of the debt. We became a banking instrument. Because unless we pre sold 100% of the debt, they couldn’t get finance together.

Anthony Denman:
Wow that’s quite a risk, like for you, right?

Justin Brown:
Fully.

Anthony Denman:
That’s a serious operational risk.

Justin Brown:
And so we knew the risk in that if we couldn’t get there, basically developers would likely go, and then we’d be left with millions.

Anthony Denman:
Totally.

Justin Brown:
So we were always under high risk.

Anthony Denman:
I mean it’s funny, you talk about developer risk, but the operational risk, right?

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Of having all of those salaries, and overheads, and everything that’s involved with… And knowing in the back of your mind, that if you don’t…

Justin Brown:
But we were doing it two a weekend.

Anthony Denman:
Does that allow you enough time to be with your family?

Justin Brown:
There were times, probably not, but in the most part yes, because thankfully, David’s kids are a bit older, so David would take the heat for me, he’d protect me.

Anthony Denman:
That’s so good. There’s not many business partners who can say that. You really get a sense of how valuable that comradery?

Justin Brown:
Comradery.

Anthony Denman:
Comradery? Is that the word?

Justin Brown:
I mean that’s the thing about our business. You know Andrew in Melbourne, and Paul and Nick. It’s funny you talk about Nick on the Gold Coast. Our guy on the Gold Coast, sends me this message that says “I’m leaving.” Said “Oh, terrific.” And I remember I rang Becky and she says “Oh what are you going to do?” I said “I have an idea.” She said “What’s that?” I said that young Buck, Clydsdale. I rang him, I said “Where are you?” And he goes “Oh, oh, oh.” And he was wakeboarding. I said “Be at my house at 7:00.” And the poor bloke like, he tells me laughing he goes “I was shitting myself. I rang.” I go “What the hell is he calling me?” He turns up True story Brookie’s there… “Buddy I want you to move to Gold Coast. I want you to be a managing director. I believe you could do this.” “What are you talking about?” I’m in Sydney, I mean, I’m 27. And now he, ended up grown the best business, he’s killing it.

Anthony Denman:
On the Goad Coast. He’s living there.

Justin Brown:
And he will be one of the great leaders of our business.

Anthony Denman:
How do you identify talent?

Justin Brown:
Well David is great at identifying, all of us. The four of us.

Anthony Denman:
How though? What do you look for?

Justin Brown:
There’s flare, but there’s discipline. And project marketing is very different to agency. Because a client, you have to be consistent with the client for four years. In agency, it’s really a six week turn around. Like you think you’re a fool and deal with you for for six weeks, and it’s like, see you later. But a developer who’s really on the edge, generally, financially on the edge, generally push themselves. And we have to take the sort of journey up the four years.

Anthony Denman:
That, and that’s just it.

Justin Brown:
And that’s the difference.

Anthony Denman:
Well thank you. Finally, that’s one of the best specific examples I’ve been given in my endless quest for “Please explain the difference between a general agent and-“

Justin Brown:
Because you could be a flake for four weeks. So, they work our you’re a flake after two weeks, but you’re in the journey then oh you only have two weeks to go. But, if they’re proverbial on the line, and you’ve got four years, you have to go the journey before you – the ups and downs.

Anthony Denman:
So, can I ask then, okay, so it’s as simple as identifying character, and commitment, and focus, right? And it’s pretty clear-

Justin Brown:
But also, the reason there’s not meany top line project marketers, is they are developers.

Anthony Denman:
They are developers.

Justin Brown:
Because they know the skill.

Anthony Denman:
What can’t you live without when it comes to marketing off the plan property? Like if you had one thing, you could only have one thing.

Justin Brown:
Have to be CGI. There has to be something you can hold. Some tangibility. There needs to be something that people… And that’s where a sales person comes into. There needs to be something that is tangible, that someone could at least, you have a glimmer that you can hold them to.

Anthony Denman:
When we were doing this, back in the day…

Justin Brown:
Remember “Anthony, take those pictures!”

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
A picture is a thousand words.

Anthony Denman:
Oh, mate. There’s no CGI’s then.

Justin Brown:
No.

Anthony Denman:
It was all just, God. So now it was, but I mean with the digital marketing revolution I guess you’d call it.

Justin Brown:
Which is great, but if I can sit someone down and actually say “Well this is what is, and this is what the-“

Anthony Denman:
Yeah but I mean like for example-

Justin Brown:
Okay, mainstream, like if we’re talking about not me, but our larger team, I think the digital marketing now on how it works is a must.

Anthony Denman:
Because I remember like, with Goldsbrough for example, Walsh Bay.

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
One ad page three of the Sydney Morning Herald, black and white, right?

Justin Brown:
Yeah, mm

Anthony Denman:
Maybe a front and back cover on the Wentworth Career with Dennis, for these… God, that was it, right?

Justin Brown:
Yep.

Anthony Denman:
There was no realestate.com

Justin Brown:
But now if you look at our database is all out, and how many millions were spent on that database.

Anthony Denman:
Can I ask you about that? I want to ask you about that, because I remember, I know we talked about it, but you-

Justin Brown:
And so there was very much.

Anthony Denman:
You saw that, right? You saw that.

Justin Brown:
Yeah well let’s be fair about this.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Justin Brown:
David and Becky saw it.

Anthony Denman:
David and Becky saw it, okay.

Justin Brown:
And we would have spent $6,000,000.00 on that, taking sales force and putting… Which because we were so big, we’re the only ones in the country that could spend the money. And David and Becky led this, and particularly Becky. And so, what popped out of that was we were so far ahead. We were managing the database, and all our competitors were still on excel and the likes. And that’s why we had the ability to step so far up. And I still come back to it that I picked the right person in partnering, or Tim and I did, with David. Whereas the other, probably the other two they could have, that are still more focused on themselves than the market. And we grew as group. It’s a hard thing like, we’ve basically taken out of our income to plow into infrastructure.

Anthony Denman:
That’s huge.

Justin Brown:
And then it just went…

Anthony Denman:
It’s huge. Did you debate that? Or was it a pretty easy sell on David’s behalf?

Justin Brown:
I think the biggest, the debate was actually getting, digitizing David. Hell laugh at that.

Anthony Denman:
He will

Justin Brown:
Yeah, put that in there.

Anthony Denman:
He’s coming on by the way.

Justin Brown:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
I just got to, I haven’t found the time for him, but he, sorry, he hasn’t found the time for me

Justin Brown:
He was here with me before, with a client.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah okay, yeah he’s coming, he’s coming on. You’ll have your say Dave.

Justin Brown:
Becky was a leader, and I do finally get David over the line to become digitized, and now he’s a leader

Anthony Denman:
He is. What’s the future hold for you? Are you going to be around for a while doing what you’re doing, another cycle?

Justin Brown:
Cycle’s starting.

Anthony Denman:
It’s just starting, right?

Justin Brown:
If I look back, I was probably the beginning where we started at Colliers, and we took it all the way through, and I was partners with Colliers, I was joint venture partner and a young kid Asia specific. And then we started as joint venture, David and I and Tim with CBs coming through. Think what I’d like to see now, is whether I last the whole next cycle, I’ll certainly be through part of it, certainly there to see our business model continue, and also really focused on seeing good young people come through into the next level. Because it’s been good to me, been good to my friends. It’s a tough businessmate, but you stick it out, be good.

Anthony Denman:
That’s right, no it is a tough business.

Justin Brown:
Cut throat.

Anthony Denman:
That’s what this is it about mostly, here we talked about before off mic why I’m doing it, and I guess it’s just for those people who are interested in the business, right? Justin. Mate, thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. Look, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?

Justin Brown:
No problem. Just give me a call on the mobile. 0434 432586.

Anthony Denman:
Excellent. Thanks again man, I really appreciate it.

Justin Brown:
Pleasure, any time.