Feature article

What you missed at the Elite Retreat in Bali

A streamlined real estate get-together where agents get to chat to international speakers in Bali? What’s not to like?

This year’s Elite Retreat in Bali was all about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how agents should embrace it and play with it. At the same time, one of the most meaningful sessions for the agent audience drilled down into team culture and gave a playbook for managing it and honing it over the year.

The beauty of the Elite Retreat Bali was that you could chat with the speakers in the days after their talks, according to our Trade Me Property team and the five NZ agents they hosted at the event. And this happened regularly during the retreat, known for its intimate numbers with a cap of 150 agents, from NZ, Australia, the US and the Philippines among others.

According to our group the most talked about speakers this year were:

  • Scott Bateman, Chief Executive, Kolmeo, property management software company
  • Jeff Turner, real estate tech entrepreneur and mentor from Second Century Ventures
  • Hannah Gill, Director of Property Management, The Property Collective
  • Mark McLeod, Ray White Group Chief Strategy Officer
  • Tim Duggan, author of Cult Status:How to Build a Business People Adore.

And the most popular topics were:

  • AI and how to use it (play with it, don’t fear it)
  • Using AI to rehumanise your time
  • Forget EQ (Emotional Quotient or Intelligence), now it’s about your Adaptability Quotient (AQ) in today’s world.Adaptability Quotient
  • Your team culture – have a Culture Playbook says The Property Collective.

The message from July’s Elite Retreat Bali speakers on how to use AI was to experiment and take what works to create efficiencies in your business. And those who are hoping it goes away, will be left behind.

Trade Me Property Sales Director Gavin Lloyd was on an AI panel at the retreat discussing the implications it had for the real estate industry. His message to the audience was: “When investing in tech make sure it truly shifts the dial, rather than just tweaking things at the margins.”

Talking after the retreat, Gav says: ”It’s also critical that, as a business when looking at AI, we ensure that we have our house in order first. That we don’t create or reinforce unfair bias, we protect our customers’ privacy and we manage our IP with care, as well as being mindful of new security considerations.”

In his take-away from the retreat, Gav was struck by the importance of mindset in this ever-changing world to succeed with new technologies.

“For example, the US Army is being very deliberate around recruiting for adaptability, favouring the concept of the “Adaptability Quotient” which ensures that people are able to adapt to change. When looking at your team, do you have this mindset to ensure your goals in three to five years?”

Trade Me Property Sales Manager, Tristan McCormick, says a highlight for him was a session with The Property Collective’s Hannah Gill. Hannah has created The Culture Playbook, a document which is always living but focuses on everyone holding each other to account within the business, right up and down the hierarchy.

“Career conversations are led by this, and the company recruits with the playbook front of mind,” explains Tristan. As the Trade Me Property sales team are brainstorming on culture at the moment so this was timed perfectly, he says.

The highlights for NZ agents at Elite Retreat Bali

Five agents from all over the country were chosen to accompany our Trade Me Property team after completing an expression of interest process answering two questions: what they wanted to gain by attending and what their best experience had been when using Trade Me Property.

Business owner and agent, Brianne (Brie) Bignell, says Hannah Gill’s session on company culture and the Culture Playbook had the biggest impact on her.

The agent has already got in touch with Hannah, who’s based in Canberra, for more information. “She’s all about ensuring that there’s the right culture in the team, and are you getting the best out of your people?” says the Ray White team leader

The Culture Playbook conversation prompted Brie to look at her own team and staff and to ask, “How am I showing up as a leader? How do I want to be running my business?” And not to be afraid to have the hard conversations.

“I’ve asked her to email me the Culture Playbook. I see it as a really good health check for the business,” says the Ray White team leader.

Hannah’s talk asked questions around what you won’t tolerate as a leader and when you feel most empowered, explains Brie.

Another highlight for the Ray White agent was a session with Tim Duggan, author of the book, “Cult Status:How to Build a Business People Adore.” It’s about building a business or an agency where people want to work, and who clients want to work with, says Brie, a theme she felt tied in well with Hannah Gill’s session.

The Ray White Beachlands agent also liked the messaging about AQ vs EQ.. “To my vendors, I say: ‘selling a house is like sailing a yacht, you go where the wind is, you might think you’ll go left but you might have to go right’.”

Practical ways to play with AI

The biggest takeaway for Harcourts Holmwood Christchurch agent, Zani Polson on AI was, that you can’t break it and it’s only as good as the stuff you put into it. Kolmeo chief executive Scott Batemen talked about the power of AI, and gave practical tips to agents on how to use it.

The agent wrote her mission, her vision and impact statement using ChatGPT which she calls Rosey (inspired by Rosey the Robot in The Jetsons). She likes to talk to it like it’s a person, thanking it and saying hello.

She wrote a customer email, which would normally take 30 minutes, in 1.5 minutes.

“You can use AI to give you an idea of how to approach something. You can say, this is great, but can you make it more casual? It’s learning how I speak and how I approach things,” says Zani.

Another takeaway from Kolmeo’s Scott Bateman for the Harcourts Fendalton agent was yes, have a mission statement and values, but also have an impact statement too. “The way society is moving, people are aligning themselves with brands that have an impact on society,” she says.

The Christchurch agent says she’s also going to talk to her management team about Synthesia which she learned about at the retreat. It’s a synthetic media generation platform used to create AI-generated video content. It allows you to take selfies and then creates multiple profile photos. It will be very useful for new agents starting out, says Zani.

Using AI to be more productive and not burn out

What Barfoot & Thompson’s Bob Voss was looking for from the Elite Retreat were ideas for increasing his business from 50 sales a year to 80 or 100 without burning himself out. And he got some answers, particularly from Mark McLeod, the Ray White chief strategy officer, he says.

He liked the CSO’s blend of old school and new school wisdom. “To agents saying that their appraisal numbers are down because the markets are down, his message was,“Take responsibility. Appraisals are nothing to do with what the market’s doing.” People want to know where they’re at and they need advice from a good agent in any market.

The Auckland agent was also struck by a question posed during the retreat, which was, what technology stack are you using? In other words, what are the pieces of tech that stack together to make your business more productive and/or more approachable for the customer?

The Barfoot & Thompson agent says he liked the thinking around AQ, with the idea of having an option and going for it, but if things change, having the mental capacity to alter course.

Bob is looking into an automated AI email programme which he can set up so that when buyers make an inquiry about a property, it will send through all the relevant documents in an instant. People like an Uber instantly so why not their real estate information too? he argues.

Spending more time with clients and embracing transition

Tommy’s agent, Zoe Smith, says she was able to catch up with tech entrepreneur Jeff Turner in person at one of the more casual meeting events at the Elite Retreat, which was a real highlight after his interesting talk.

“Jeff’s talk was all about looking beyond the how of tech to get to the why,” says Zoe. The entrepreneur works with early stage real estate tech companies in North America.

An idea presented at the retreat which really resonated with Zoe was the idea of using AI to “rehumanise time”, in other words anything you can automate to AI should give you time back. In real estate, it’s time that can be spent with your clients and customers which is the part of the business you enjoy the most, says Zoe.

Also, it was good to have speakers who were from outside the real estate industry, she adds. “If you’re all the same then there’s less potential for innovation.”

Integrating retreat lessons as soon as you’re back

So often you return from a conference buzzing, but then you get snowed with work and all that information you’ve digested is soon forgotten.

The five agents who accompanied Trade Me Property’s top sales execs to Elite Retreat Bali have no intention of doing this.

Paula Ritchie from Harcourts Team Group Wellington has returned to her market energised after the Elite Retreat in Bali.

“You come back quite excited and fizzing, I’ve got lots of ideas and I want to sit down and work out a plan of how to fit it in and do better. I think we’re going to regroup at the end of this week and figure out what to put into play,” she says.

She’s also taking the “using AI to rehumanise time” message seriously and is planning to use AI in her scripts and ad writing. She just signed a listing on her return from the retreat and wrote the ad on the same day using AI.

“As you get to know it better, you’ll ask the right questions, and the right dialogue will spit out the other end,” she says.

As well as ranking Jeff Turner and Hannah Gill highly as speakers, Paula also enjoyed good insights from Mark Carter, educator and author, who talked about the five elements of value and how to get value out of everything you’re doing.