It takes a lot of courage to launch a business on the day dedicated to fools and practical jokers. But as with everything done by John and Anita Percudani, the resolution to open the doors to their humble two-person operation on the 1st of April was not by coincidence.
Today, Realmark is one of Western Australia’s leading multi-discipline agencies with hundreds of staff and numerous offices throughout the Perth metropolitan area and regional Western Australia.
The first and only real estate company to be inducted into the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia twice, it has won numerous national awards and in 2013 was named among Business Review Weekly’s Top 50 Most Innovative Companies.
It is a far cry from its humble beginnings when the company operated out of a small office space staged with second-hand furniture and the days when the couple operated a chocolate distribution business at night to help meet their financial obligations.
Now aged in their early 60s and late 50s respectively, the husband-and-wife team first locked eyes nearly 40 years ago. They both displayed an early talent for recognising quality property, pooling finances to purchase their first home near the beach in a place that even today they still call home.
While both had held jobs in the wholesale and retail sector during their teens,
John claims he is the one to “blame” for the pair ending up in real estate.
While Anita held the fort at home, John supported the family via his work as a town planner initially with the State Planning Commission and latterly with the City of Perth. Recognising a desire to sit on the other side of the fence, he moved to property development and transaction creation and for a period became the director of a large land subdivision marketing company.
In 1989 he decided to open his own real estate practice. Together the pair secured a tiny office in Wembley in Perth’s western suburbs with John acting as sales agent and Anita working as receptionist.
John says the early days were tough on the couple with their naivety proving a major stumbling block.
“Financially it was a challenge to start a business when we had just come off a huge share market crash. We were paying interest of between 18 and 22% on our overdraft interest rates. But the real challenge that first year was in creating a client base that would believe in you and trust you with their property investment.”
By the late 1990s, John and Anita became aware that property management was going to change quite dramatically.
“We had to think about how we were going to re-engineer, re-innovate our business otherwise we were going to be crushed by the j-curve.”
It was then they decided to diversify the business to incorporate a commercial as well as residential offering and work towards becoming a full-service agency.
Eager to adjust the way the company approached the selling and marketing of the properties on their books, John and Anita introduced a range of new initiatives and mantras aimed at revolutionising the way the real estate game was played. Anita says this meant focusing on choice, not chance.
“We became very focused on what we call our ‘ABCs’ – for people to aspire to be with Realmark; to feel that they belong and that they were cared for and, in turn, could care for our customers. That was a very important part of our mindset.”
Another key point of difference is the way the pair use technology to keep them ahead of their competitors.
“We were always focused on embracing technology to leverage our abilities, our time and our impact on the marketplace. I can remember when we first started we took on a word processing program called Microsoft and then we found out that nobody knew how to use the damn thing,” John says.
One of the first real estate agencies in the state to have a website, Realmark uses Rockend software to help support its strata management division and incorporated programs such as Slack and Asana to integrate its internal project management and communication systems. Recently the company partnered with a major accountancy firm and is developing a bespoke reporting and business intelligence system that will use unique algorithms to integrate data and produce reports on everything from sales production to end-of-year financial reporting.
To ensure a continuation of their ABC fundamental principles, the couple believe in fostering strong and supportive corporate cultures. As a result, they have introduced a range of both internal and external mentoring programs.
These include Realmark’s Successful Women in Business initiative that aims to care and nurture the personal and career development of the women within the company.
They dedicate several weekends a month attending the property auctions of staff and work hard at ensuring they give back to the community. As such, they have established True Blue, an in-house program that supports the work of charities in Western Australia such as The Starlight Foundation, Redkite, Nulsen Haven and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and are also involved in Operation Christmas, which involves filling shoeboxes with gifts for children in war-torn areas.
According to Anita, work “is not just about numbers”.
Clearly unafraid of hard work and eager to prove worthy role models to their extended family, the pair says they have also learned to draw a line in the sand between their professional and personal obligations.
They do this by fostering outside interests with Anita in the process of restoring a vintage Alfa Romeo 1969 GT Junior car and John regularly indulging his passion for boating and water sports.
“We’re quite disciplined around not discussing too much business but in saying that business is a 24/7 occupation. We still drive to and from work together, so we’ve made a rule that when we get past a particular intersection on the way home, that’s the end of all business talk.”