CEO, coach and trainer Fiona Blayney says hard work, self-awareness and rock solid values have driven growth for her burgeoning recruitment, training, consultancy and outsourcing business Real +.
Fiona Blayney’s grandfather died at the age of 21. Her parents weren’t entrepreneurial or affluent, but they raised their only child to work hard, own her choices, have a voice in discussions at the adults’ table and be economically self-sufficient by the time she turned 21.
By high school, when she was offered her first job in real estate following a week’s work experience, she was already juggling four part-time gigs. “I was a bra fitter at Myer, I was working at a doctor’s surgery, I was working at the real estate office, I was delivering pizzas and cooking at an Italian restaurant at night,” she recalls with a laugh. The aim was autonomy, not consumption. It’s still her driving force. “For me, it’s about freedom to choose, and that’s my overall purpose in life.”
Seven years at McGrath Real Estate proved pivotal. Blayney was coached and mentored by John McGrath in his future leader’s program. She became training manager at McGrath affiliate Total Real Estate Training (TRET) and began organising the ARPM Conference, the property management industry’s major annual event. When the time felt right to launch a training and coaching consultancy of her own, she discussed her ambitions with McGrath leadership and gained their full support. Ten years later, the two companies still collaborate on annual events.
“I picked up the portion of the business I started inside TRET, which was coaching, consultancy, and training workshops around property management and leadership. I put it into my second bedroom at home, rebranded it Blayney Potential Plus, and kept going with the blessing of the McGraths,” Blayney says. “I was really proud of that. It wasn’t like me walking in one day and saying, ‘I’m going tomorrow’.
This was 12 months in the making, really. If you want to part ways, both parties come to that conversation with authenticity, transparency, care and wanting the best outcome for everyone. My belief system is, you do the right thing, and the money will come.”
Initially, she threw herself into round-the-clock consulting to clients across Australia, the US and the UK, clocking up more than 120 flights annually. Within 12 months she’d hired an assistant and taken on 120 square metres of office space in Sydney’s Neutral Bay. “I have a theory that, like a fish, you’ll grow to fit your surroundings,” she says. “We used part of it as a training room, we had ourselves in there and we started to fill it.”
Blayney rebranded the business as Real + in 2016 and operates as CEO, coach, trainer and keynote speaker. She oversees four business streams: recruitment, training, consulting and outsourcing. She also structures her working life tightly to create time to be fully present with her partner and two children, aged five and three.
Responding to change and growing into new areas – eLearning several years back, for example – has shown her the importance of “150% self-awareness” as a business leader. “I know the things that I am good at, and I also know the things that I am not good at,” she says. “Instead of trying to be better at the things that I’m not good at, I hire people to do them.”