While it’s not a requirement for a successful team, it certainly helps a business when members of a team get along. Fortunately for global real estate company Knight Frank, Joint Heads of Institutional Sales Ben Schubert (pictured left) and Paul Roberts have helped engineer an atmosphere of cooperation and warmth within the company’s Australian division.
The process has no doubt come naturally to them; though the pair have only been with Knight Frank for a little over two years, Ben and Paul have been friends for the past 16 years, through numerous different roles across the industry.
Both started in valuations, eventually moving into the fund-management side for property owners and, finally, now act as agents. They’ve had a wealth of experience within the entire commercial real estate industry and Ben believes it’s helped them thrive within Knight Frank.
“To know what it’s like for your client to get through the process needed to acquire or dispose of an asset, it’s quite invaluable,” he says. “Agents who haven’t been on the other side of the fence will say they know what an investment committee or a board is like. The reality is they haven’t sat in those meetings, so they don’t quite get it. We’ve both sat in those meetings, pitched things, had to fight for things and had them turned down.”
Though he agrees, Paul says that experience has contributed even more. They’ve been through the entire property process on both sides, taking in negotiation, contracts, portfolios, fund management and more.
The pair clearly understands how the industry works, across the board. It’s no wonder that, since Ben and Paul joined, the team has handled A$1.5 billion of property transactions.
“It’s about knowing your client, knowing the strategies, knowing what they want to achieve,” says Paul. “Then it’s focusing on the key relationships that you can build and making sure you can appeal to the clients that you get on best with. If you get on with your clients, it will make doing deals so much more pleasurable and, obviously, they’ll put a lot more faith and trust in you as a team.”
“You can’t kid yourself – you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea,” Ben adds. “It’s being realistic about how you’re viewed in the client’s eyes. That’s a key thing about Paul and I starting a partnership together – he gets along with a completely different set of clients. We’ve got a lot of commonalities but there are different strengths as well.”
As an example, Ben describes his colleague as “thorough and analytical”, while referring to himself – tongue-in-cheek – as “all over the place at times”. This awareness of their distinct attributes has shaped the development of their team, with the pair seeking to avoid another “five Ben and Pauls”.
Collectively, the duo oversee a diverse team in terms of abilities and natural proclivities. “It’s all about the team,” says Paul.
“We don’t push individual agendas, and we bring everybody into the mix. Clients can tell when a team works well together. Whether it’s at a local or national basis, we get along well as a group of individual agents. Ideally, that’s projected to the clients, who can appreciate it and recognise that we work well.”
“We bring everybody into the mix. Clients can tell when a team works well together.”
The Joint Heads find it easy to create such a cooperative environment within Knight Frank. Even at the global level, there’s a natural tendency towards it. At a recent conference in Singapore, Ben and Paul met Knight Frank teams from the US, the UK, Germany and the UAE, representing a network of expertise that can easily be drawn on.
Even the global chairman, says Ben, is easily contactable. It’s the kind of organisation-wide culture that allows the Knight Frank team to offer its customers the property solutions they need.
“With us, clients get a real collaborative focus in terms of solving their issues,” says Paul. “We bring a bespoke solution to their issues or their property needs. We know exactly what they’re looking for and what they’re going through with their portfolio development. We’re able to provide that trusted knowledge and the desired outcome. To my mind, it’s being the first-choice agent when they need to pick up the phone and discuss something.”