Barely 21 when he graduated from university clutching a commerce degree, Cameron Garry was just 27 when he purchased his first investment property and only 28 when he set up his own residential property management agency – Affordable Property Management – in 2013.
Recently the ambitious father-of-one sought to capitalise on that early hard work by adding a second South Australian real estate brand, City Realty, to his burgeoning portfolio.
“I guess things moved quickly for me. I had never done residential property management before setting up the company, but there’s nothing like throwing yourself in the deep end,” he says.
His initiation into the property game followed his move to Sydney and employment at the listed property group GPT to do consolidated accounting and financial reporting. Having gained his chartered accountancy qualification and eager to see a bit of the world before settling down, he left GPT to go backpacking through Asia and Europe.
Travelling confirmed to Garry that he didn’t want to go back to accounting, opting instead to return to Adelaide and work for a small business with a view to one day starting up one to call his own. He signed up with a recruitment agency and soon after began work as a business manager for another Adelaide start-up called Affordable Housing Consulting (AHC) run by his now-business partner Paul Mitchell.
The business was associated with the Federal Government’s National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), and Garry’s list of duties included training AHC’s property managers and liaising with the government representatives. It was then he realised the opportunity to move into property management and APM was born.
“It felt like the logical thing to do with my background. I have zero fear about business, the management of capital, resource allocation and processes – the things that scare a lot of people. But the business side of things is never a mental barrier for me,” he says.
Starting from scratch, in just 3 years APM now has a staff of 7 and more than 400 properties on its books. With a leadership style more measured than manic, “it’s the accountant in me”, Garry says he is clear about where his priorities lie. His working day starts at around 7.30am and he almost always makes it home to put his one-year-old son to bed.
“I try and get home by 6pm and then do a little bit of work later on. I guess because of workloads being higher and higher for me over the last 3 years my efficiency has gone through the roof because it has to. I am not one of those machines who can work through to midnight every night.”
This considered approach to business is a key plank to APM’s success, as is the strength of the team he has built around him. Seeing his staff happy is the most enjoyable aspect of his work, Garry says.
“I’m not a traditional snazzy high-end sales agent who can rouse everyone up with motivational meetings,” admits Garry. “I don’t like Monday morning meetings; I’m not good at them so I don’t do them. I don’t come in and tell everyone they’re amazing, that’s not me either.
My approach is calm, collaborative and to get my team’s input and build their thoughts into processes where appropriate. I try to offer flexibility and see staff recruitment as extremely important. When people refer a friend or someone to come and work for us when an opportunity opens up, then that is the biggest compliment that I can get. That means they must be proud of their workplace.”