Women have significantly increased their contributions to various fields of the global economy over the past ten years. From finance and entrepreneurship to biotechnology and space science technology, women have overrun the traditional strongholds of industries and transformed how business is conducted. The traditionally male-dominated field of real estate has also seen this shift, with women establishing successful and long-lasting careers as agents and businesswomen.
Women in the real estate industry typically bring a more balanced outlook to various segments of the unorganized market because of their multifaceted approach, using compassion, assertiveness, empathy and persistence. This is one of the main causes of the increased recognition of female potential in the global real estate and construction industries.
Cara Atchison’s passion for real estate was inspired by her father’s career in property in the 1980s. After more than a decade in financial operations (MLC) and armed with an arsenal of client skills and troubleshooting knowledge, Cara turned full circle to launch her own real estate endeavors. Working in Sydney’s famous Eastern Suburbs with the best teams allowed Cara to refine her skills and become a successful agent & business owner.
Fourteen years later, Cara manages her marketing and operations team across multiple offices in Sydney’s most prestigious district. Cara prides herself on the work she does in close cooperation with her team and 1ST CITY’s numerous esteemed clients, helping achieve fantastic (and sometimes record-breaking) results.
Highlights from the interview that shed light on Cara Atchison’s journey from an impressive learning career to an industry expert include:
Brief us about your career path as a staunch woman leader up until your current position.
Following over 12 years of management in the finance and superannuation sector, focusing on financial operations as a business analyst at MLC/NAB, I found my organizational, management, leadership and IT skills readily transferrable into launching my own real estate business alongside my husband Brad Caldwell-Eyles.
I started operating my own agency as one of the directors of what is now the 1ST CITY Real Estate Group in 2009. Working in Sydney’s premier property precincts with the industry’s highest caliber agency groups, I honed my craft in this area.
Over a dozen years later, I oversee the operations and marketing team across multiple offices, encompassing project sales and marketing, commercial and residential sales and rentals. This role of close collaboration with 1ST CITY’s many valued clients and stakeholders (including developers, architects, creatives, and designers) and developing my team provides me with my ultimate professional satisfaction and pride.
I am also particularly proud of my recent appearance on Australian Survivor Series 6, Brains V Brawn in Cloncurry, Australia. Skills that I have carefully honed in my life and career such as resilience, empathy, resourcefulness, negotiation skills, leadership, and teamwork, all of which are underpinned by integrity, enabled me to finish Survivor in the extremely impressive position of 4th place.
What challenges did you face along the way?
Real estate, as everyone knows, is always a challenge, which is why people also love it. There is never a dull moment, and you are constantly learning and growing.
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 had a big impact on the business. We had to pare down our team to a skeleton crew in order to adjust procedures, hold meetings, and navigate the uncharted waters at the time. During this period, our projects’ business grew significantly, so we set up more virtual tools to assist our buyers through the journey over video conferencing. Finding the right people to fit into the team is always a challenge. I personally profile each and every person before we meet to
ascertain their learning style, attitude, stamina, and stability. I am passionate about recruiting for attitude and then training. Train them, don’t blame them.
Enlighten us on how you have impacted the Real Estate industry through your expertise.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has been an interesting path to navigate in my profession. Early in my career, I found myself emulating male business owners’ and agents’ behavior. Now a strong woman, I bring a different seat to the table. I am forthright, upfront, and loyal, yet I bring empathy and understanding to the industry and all my endeavours. My personal goal is also to empower women through speaking up and feeling confident and comfortable enough to put forward and implement their ideas.
Tell us about 1ST CITY Real Estate and its foundation pillar.
The main foundational pillar underpinning our company culture, values, and decision-making is to be deeply engaged with and for our clients. We dig deep into our clients’ goals, issues, and psyche to provide the best solution and highest-achieving outcome for their individual circumstances. It is for this reason that we maintain such exceptional relationships with our clients and are known as one of the leading, go-to real estate agencies in Australia.
What strategies do you implement to promote gender diversity for various positions at 1ST CITY Real Estate?
We focus on potential when placing candidates at 1ST CITY in their respective roles. We have standard contracts that ensure equal pay and equal benefits (including time off). We even have a meeting room dedicated for our team members’ children when they need to bring their kids to work (this includes computer games, TV, coloring and puzzle books, and even a comfy sofa for naps). We also work hard to have an inclusive culture and ensure education, accountability, and personal growth are at the forefront of our leadership, ethos, and training.
What is your take on technology’s importance, and how are you leveraging it?
If you don’t embrace and keep up with technology, you will be left behind. I frequently use the example of DVD stores (Blockbuster) that waited too long to adopt technology.
We have been focusing on becoming experts in programmatic ads, capturing these audiences, retargeting, and remodelling since COVID-19. We have developed decks for developers to educate them on the new technology, which also caters for geo-fencing, postcode targeting, among over 1000 other parameters, and these also include our development of the strategy, design, implementation, testing, plus refining. This allows us increased control and transparency in reporting and expenditure, plus greater access and reach to ad exchanges & private marketplaces not available to the casual consumer. As a result, we enjoy more brand awareness and trust for 1ST CITY making us the go-to for luxury off-the-plan real estate.
What will be the next significant change in the Real Estate industry, and how are you preparing for it?
Aside from the obvious improvements in virtual and augmented reality, a substantial change will be in the design and use of homes. People are seeking flexible, multipurpose living to enable work-from-home spaces and a better quality of life. In addition, they want a better connection to the outdoors, environmental sustainability, and smart technology—all of which circle back to people wanting a better quality of life post-COVID-19. Number plate recognition, combi ovens, ice bath plunge pools, sparkling water (on tap), and EV charging areas for electric cars are also items that buyers are seeking.
In preparation, we work closely with our developers (ideally) prior to formal approvals to assist with floorplan layout and common area design. We are constantly seeking fresh ideas for sexy inclusions (i.e., full-time building concierges, climate-controlled wine cabinets, food steamers, apps for owner issues and communication), all of which make our products desirable and obviously more saleable.
What are your goals in the upcoming future?
The predominant area that we focus on for developments in the exclusive Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Our goal is to infiltrate and dominate the Lower North Shore area of Sydney in projects and developments, as well as continuing to build up our rental portfolio (including commercial properties).
What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders willing to venture into the modern business arena?
The best advice I was given was to embrace and develop my strengths as a woman. In my early career, I was emulating male behavior (being dominant and forceful) and whilst it worked to some extent, I separated myself from the pack once I embraced my female instincts, maintaining a warm, genuine, empathetic but strong demeanor. It goes without saying that none of the foregoing is supported by resting on my learning laurels. I know the market, and I am constantly reading and listening to leaders in other industries, so I go into meetings well-versed. Finally, if you don’t know something, don’t pretend; just say, “Tell me more.”