When Leah Jay saw the potential of specialising purely in property management, no one thought it would work. Twenty-three years later, with four thriving offices offering award-winning property management in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland areas, Jay proved the doubters wrong.
Thirty years ago, while working for a local Newcastle real estate agency, Jay discovered a passion for property management. “I started out as their receptionist and then became the property manager for their company, and I absolutely loved it,” she says.
In 1994, Jay went out on her own, purchasing a small rent roll of 90 properties. Despite the negativity of local agencies and the struggles of working in what was still a relatively male dominated industry, Jay persisted, working seven days a week for the next 23 years. “The business was growing, but it was never the intention to have the business we have now,” says Jay. “The success has been based purely on the idea of specialist property management and the service that we gave and continue to give to people along the way.”
After 9 years of steady growth, the brand and business profile took off and a second office opened in Warners Bay. Later, as people were priced out of Newcastle, Jay identified an opportunity in the market in East Maitland, opening another office there. And since the business was, and still is, completely independent, not attached to any sales, people approached Leah Jay for property investment advice. “That’s been the secret to the success of the business,” she says.
Tragedy struck in 2008, however, marking a personal turning point in Jay’s life. Her 19-year-old son, Elliot, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died less than a year later. Out of the tragedy, Jay found a new perspective on life. “That made me really look at things differently,” she says. “You give your best that you can for people, but you don’t let the small stuff worry you.”
After years of non-stop work, Jay took stock and looked to her own health. She started trekking and mountain climbing, discovering another passion in the process – one that resulted in climbing to the summit of Mount Everest in May 2017. “That was magnificent,” she says. “But what I learned with building the business is you get there and it’s amazing, but it’s the journey along the way that matters. It was the same for Mount Everest: it’s so much more than the summit.”
Today, with a staff of 50, Leah Jay the business has taken on a life of its own and while Jay is still heavily involved and her passion very much an underlying strength, it’s no longer just about her. “The credit now goes to all those people who work and have worked here for many years,” she says.
Meanwhile, for Jay, climbing complements her career perfectly, requiring similar focus, planning and teamwork. “It’s very parallel, I love it,” she says. On a mission to climb the world’s top seven summits, Jay has only one left to go – Mount Denali in Alaska – which she hopes to conquer in May 2018. “Ten years ago, that wasn’t on my radar at all, that was after Elliot,” she says. “Now I’m as passionate about that, if not a little more, as I am about property management.”