Patrick Liew, Director of HSR speaks to Romesh Navaratnarajah about the company's proudest achievements and what sets it apart from the competition. 

 

Patrick Liew, Director of HSR

Q. What are some of the core values of HSR that you try to instill into your agents?

A.
The corporate philosophy of HSR was developed out of a very deep crisis back in 2003. During that time, our revenue trickled to almost its lowest point in history, and our operational expenses hit an all time high. In our deepest despair, we decided to rebuild the company all over again, and also re-crafted our whole corporate philosophy. Our mission now is to make a positive difference in peoples lives, through warmth and love.

We have notices everywhere in the building highlighting these core values, and our staff carry these values with them in an electronic access card. For new staff, we have a training session to teach them these values. I'm proud to say that my whole team has memorized them.

Q. What are some ideas you've implemented that have created great results in your business?

A.
We realized a long time ago that we are not just in the real estate business, but also in the relationship business. We believe that if we take care of our staff and make them feel like they are part of this family, and that the office is their second home, then we will unleash a tremendous amount of power to grow the organization. The reason why I say this is because you can have the best business model and the latest technology, but if your staff don't support what you're saying, then they won't put in their very best effort and the results of the company will be very limited.

If you look around our building, you will notice a few services, such as a free shuttle bus that brings staff to the bus interchange and MRT station, and a free valet service. We also have our own spa, masseuse service, acupuncture therapist, gymnasium and karaoke lounge. By implementing these services, we hope to create an environment where people not only come to work, but also have fun and enjoy themselves. 

Q. What are some of HSR's proudest achievements to date?

A.
We are very proud of a few things. For starters, we are arguably the most awarded real estate company. We have won more than 20 awards, both in Singapore as well as overseas. Some examples include the award for number one real estate company, the largest real estate agency, the fastest growing real estate company and the Singapore Prestige Brand award for the established brand category. We are still the first and only real estate company to win in that particular category.

In addition, we are a company that has got soul and heart. We support 4 charity organizations, and everytime there is a crisis, our staff will actively do something about it. Just after the recent Sumatra earthquake, we organized a funfair and had a member of parliament as our guest of honour. In the end, we raised $35,000 to help the earthquake victims. 

Q. In such a competitive market, how do you differentiate your business from the other big boys?

A.
The fact that we love our staff and believe in touching their lives is a major difference. We also emphasize a lot on training. If you walk around our building, you will see that we have over 10 training rooms. In fact, we have more training resources, programmes and trainers than any other agency. We have about 25 courses taking place at HSR and everyone that joins us will go through a learning curve for three years. Most real estate companies provide their staff with only one month of training, but at HSR we believe in lifelong learning. We put our money where our mouth is and make sure people are properly trained.

We are also very strong in info-communication technology. We have a top IT scholar who heads up our IT department, and have over 10 people working in that area. We develop a lot of IT solutions and make sure that our staff are using it as it's cutting edge. We even have an info-comm learning laboratory in our building, because a lot of people are not IT savvy and we want to make sure we train them properly.

In addition, we also have a strong leadership team. We believe in finding the right people to do the right job, at the right time and at the right place. So we have headhunted some of the key leaders in the industry to be part of our team. We have also inculcated a culture in HSR where the leaders all support and help take care of their team.   

Patrick Liew with President Nathan
Q. Where do you see your organization heading in the next 5 years?

A.
The first goal is to ensure that we get listed on the Singapore stock exchange. After that, we want to be able to expand our culture to involve real estate agents from all over the world, because we feel that we are doing something that has gone beyond business and profit. We have got agents from around the world that have visited us, gone through our training and invited us to visit their countries.

So in the next three years, we plan to create the largest strategic alliance of real estate agencies in Asia, and beyond that we want to develop the largest strategic alliance of real estate agents all over the world. Right now, there are real estate franchises, but nobody has created a Pan Asian or global alliance of real estate agents. Strategic alliances have been created in other industries like in info-comm and aviation, but not in real estate, so we want to be the pioneer. We want to go out and really make a difference to the industry. We want to enhance the image and standards of the industry, and want to be a model for the business community not just in Singapore but all over the world.

Q. Lately, many consumers have been complaining about poor service from agents. What needs to be done to stop errant agents from giving the industry a bad reputation?

A.
The government has already announced that they want to regulate the industry, but I feel that regulating the industry is only part of the solution. Another area which is important is self-regulation, on the company level as well as from individual agents. I hope to be able to see the industry coming together finally and be able to support an accreditation body that will be able to set the standard and ensure that everybody adheres to the standard.

As an agency we have done more than our fair share to make sure our agents believe in delivering professionalism, quality service and results. This includes comprehensive training, and most importantly they carry with them a code of honour, which is placed together with their electronic access card that they have to wear because it's their professional identity. 

Q. What is your outlook for the local property market in 2010?

A.
There is no reason why the property market should not be going through another upturn. I believe property prices will rise between 5% - 10% this year. Singapore's economic fundamentals are very sound, and the economy has been growing since the last financial crisis. Unemployment levels have gone down from 3.4% to 2.1%, which is a healthy figure. Meanwhile, there are a lot of foreign funds coming into Singapore to invest not only in business, but also the property market.

Q. In your opinion, will this make it harder or easier to succeed in the real estate business?

A.
There is no better time to be involved in the real estate business than right now. Asia is going to boom in the next 10 years, and I think Singapore is well-positioned to enjoy one of the biggest booms  in our economic history. This means the property market will go through another upturn, with property transactions and prices being very positive.  

Q. What advice would you give to new agents looking to be successful?

A.
Successful agents are goal driven. They know what they want and they take action to make it happen, so the commitment level must be high. If you are not committed to the business, then it's not going to work. And then beyond commitment, you need to develop the right attitude, the right knowledge and skills to make sure you succeed. In addition, you must show care and concern for your client. If you have all these attributes, there is no reason why you cannot succeed as a real estate agent.

 

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