Familial influence may have introduced her to real estate, but intelligence, ambition and steely determination are what has made Suzannah Toop successful in her own right.
A premature birth and a struggle for life taught Suzannah Toop never to take a moment for granted. Entering the world at just 29 weeks, she weighed less than 950 grams and was about as long as a ballpoint pen. “It was touch and go for a while. I realise how lucky I am to be here,” she says.
It is that delicate start to her life that led the 28-year-old to follow her dream to study law and commerce, which saw her admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales as a lawyer earlier this year. And it is that same determination that, in the space of just three years, saw her substitute a promising career in property funds management at AMP Capital in Sydney to return to South Australia to become the CEO of the family real estate and property management business Toop & Toop.
“Some people say that having a legal background can limit your creativity as we’re taught to think of the worst case or are too afraid to take risks...I don’t see that to be the case. From what I’ve seen working in the profession, lawyers are great at getting to the heart of what the problem is, quickly, and then planning a creative solution around it. All of which I believe are extremely important traits to have in business, especially a fast-paced business like residential real estate.”
It seems calculated risk and clear ambition is inherent in the Toop DNA. Toop & Toop was launched by Toop’s parents, Anthony and Sylvia, in Adelaide in 1985. Aiming to set the gold standard for real estate performance, the company was the first to patent the award- winning VirtualAgent Selling System, a unique SMS and email-publishing tool. In addition, the agency was among the initial pioneers of 3D Smart TV broadcasting in real estate and has since gone on to develop its own interactive weekly property show it dubs ToopTV.
Toop joined the business in 2012 after her father was diagnosed with cancer. After a fast- tracked succession she was named (along with her sister Genevieve) joint CEO.
Now leading a team of 125 people, spread across six South Australian offices, Toop is predominately involved with running Toop & Toop’s property investment business, which has more than 2000 properties collectively worth more than $1 billion in its portfolio. In addition, she oversees group functions including finance and HR.
“Being a family business, our conversations around the dinner table revolved around real estate, which I loved. I’ve learned that residential real estate is quite different to other professions. It’s very much about people – your vendors, purchasers, landlords and tenants as well as your team. For me, work and personal life is intertwined. Real estate is not something that stops at 5pm and starts again at 9am, especially when you’re running the business. It’s more of a lifestyle where you live and breathe it.”
Driven by the same desire to succeed as her parents all those years ago, Toop says one of the most enjoyable aspects of her career to date has been working alongside her Toop & Toop team members, whom she describes as having “some of the best minds across the country in sales, investment management and technology through to finance and HR”.
Creating efficiencies through innovation has been a big focus area for the company in recent months and, as a result, it has been able to reduce workloads, improve its value-add proposition and deliver vastly improved results to its clients. Toop says working hard at fostering relationships with other businesspeople outside the sector to bounce ideas off has also become integral to the company’s success.
“It isn’t a formal arrangement, but certainly an incredibly important aspect of being in business. We’ve found some of our biggest innovations have come from looking to other industries, so having this outside influence is vital.”
The unique approach has led to the formation of an innovation lab within the agency, which has 4 full-time IT programmers. The team is charged with creating new software products for both in-house and external use which are used alongside commercial products such as the company’s CRM (customer relationship management) systems and property management software such as that offered by Rockend.
“Using technology to improve efficiencies and processes is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’”, she says. “We see it as being fundamental to how we will continue to exist as agents into the future.”