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Transforming team culture and customer experience at Ray White Ballarat
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21 December 2023
Header image credit: Unsplash
Sam Borner and his business partner Will Munro took over the management of Ray White Ballarat in 2022. They quickly got to work revitalising the agency, with a big focus on improving their team culture and customer experience.
A critical component of both your culture and customer experience is your technology, and Sam’s story captures that perfectly. Your systems can either hold your team back and frustrate your customers, or they can be the foundation of a better business.

How did you end up as the owner of Ray White Ballarat?

Real estate has always interested me as a long-term career, but I started as a property manager because I wanted to learn everything. I didn’t want to go into sales and exclude rentals.
That pays dividends now that we run the business. You understand the process that the rental department goes through, understand what's involved, and understand what they go through day-to-day. I think a lot of business owners who haven't done that before don't get it.
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What was your plan when you took over Ray White Ballarat?

The plan, honestly, was not to change anything. Our goal was to take over the business and just let it roll forward. But once we saw all the blockages and the frustration in our team, we had no choice but to change.
Will and I were forever in each other's offices working out ideas. We would sit together for hours to nut things out. What's going wrong? How do we fix it? What needs to be done here?
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“There's a direct correlation between a successful, well-run business and having a good culture. If you get the culture right, the good performance will come organically.”

Sam Borner, Ray White Ballarat
We started with what we wanted our business to be – and that was to have the best culture, and to provide the best service for our customers.
But to do all that, you need the best software and the best technology, and you need to be able to use it properly. That system was the first change we needed to make internally to stop the frustration from our customers and our staff.

How was your old system impacting your customers?

The old system was in place before I came on board and I doubt it’s changed since the internet was invented! But the industry has changed massively over that time.
Back then, customer expectations were not as high. Everything was done on paper. You had paper applications, rental payments were still made in cash with some direct debits set up. If you wanted to know how much money was in your account, you had to go to an ATM and get it to spit out the receipt.
We all expect things at our fingertips now. Renters and investors are a lot more savvy. It’s a ‘now’ generation and our clients expect modern technology. Every major bank has it. Every major superannuation fund has it.
You don't have a stock broker anymore, do you? I don't have to call someone and ask them to sell or buy shares for me. I just download an app, pay $10 to buy or sell, and it's done immediately. Consumers now expect the same from us in the property management industry. That’s where we need to be with our technology.
Now our renters can pay rent easily through the app, our fees get paid automatically, and then landlords get access to their money as soon as those funds clear.
Ailo brings us up-to-date with modern technology and enables us to meet the higher expectations of our customers. It's honestly an absolute game-changer in the property management industry.

How was your technology impacting your team?

Our property managers had to do everything manually. They had no chance to grow the business. We used to post everything out because we couldn't email or talk to our clients through our system.
There were many light bulb moments, but when the system crashed five times in one week and our property managers couldn’t do their work… it was pretty clear we had to do something. Within four months of acquiring the business, we got the old system out and started up Ailo.
Now it’s much easier to communicate with our clients, and Ailo makes payment cycles more efficient, clear, and transparent. Our arrears are sitting 50% lower than what they were previous to going on Ailo, which is a significant thing in our business, and our clients are happier.
Overall, I’d say Ailo has given us about 30% more capacity in our property management team, which means we can take on new managements and grow again. Our customer service is better, too.
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What else did you do to improve team culture?

The best way you can improve culture is to bring the team together. One of the first things we did was move the property management team upstairs with the sales division, where there is natural light, higher ceilings, and open air. I even moved all the filing cabinets upstairs, but it turns out I don't need them now we’re on Ailo!

What’s the culture like now, can you see any changes?

The culture has changed heaps. People want to be here. We do so much more as a team now. Tonight, for example, is Friday drinks, so we’ll close the office half an hour early.
We’ve implemented employee of the month, too. We've got a picture of all the winners and a little trophy with chocolates in it. I’ve got a box and everyone nominates who should win. I love reading them, and knowing they are all working together so well.
In team meetings, I can sit back and just observe. They're all sitting forward at the table, not sitting back. They're engaged and want to be there and want to succeed. All of that leads to a good culture, which leads to a more successful business.
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What’s next?

The next step is growth. Ailo has given us the capacity to take on new managements and grow under the current team. And how we do that is by using the thing we have that no one else has: Ailo. It’s our point of difference in the market. We want to get the benefits of it out into the market.
We're willing to spend some money on it because it's going to help grow the department and no one else can offer Ailo. We’ll do that across a few different channels. There's Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms. We're also on the radio, so we’re going to change our 30-second ads to feature Ailo too.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Sam, we’ll be keeping a close eye on your growth program!

Shortly after we recorded this case study, Sam recorded a new set of radio ads and shared the scripts with us to turn into a template for other agencies. You can access these scripts here.