February 1, 2016
Chris Sales found a niche in the commercial property market and jumped on it, opening Luxe Commercial in February 2015. He is doing things differently, offering a level of service and a product that isn’t offered anywhere else, and believes good old fashioned hard work and quality service achieves proven results. Nicole Fuge sits down with the young entrepreneur.
I walk into Houston Espresso Bar at the new Emporio Place development in Maroochydore, where I spot Chris Sales; tall and well-dressed with a phone stuck to his ear.
His energy is obvious. Whatever is being discussed is clearly a matter of great importance. Chris pauses and waves at me, introducing himself and apologises for being on the phone.
Upon hanging up, Chris diverts all calls to his office to provide his full attention for the interview. It’s a noteworthy gesture as I sense the interview would have been quickly swept up in a malaise of constant enquiry as is the frenetic nature of Chris’s latest business venture.
At 30 years of age, Chris has worked in some form of business for exactly half of his life and it doesn’t take long before you get the sense there is no other option for him.
In his teens he launched and built a successful trolley-collection business, managing 80 employees and servicing Coles and Woolworths supermarkets between Cairns and Brisbane, where he learnt how to manage people and contracts, establish markets, win tenders and deal with big corporations. After several years of growth Chris decided to cash in and sell, taking his knowledge and experience, and apply it to something else.
Close friends worked in commercial sales and leasing, an industry he had an affinity with, finding a natural fit for his constant energy levels, down-to-earth style and love for people. After five years learning the commercial real estate craft he took a leap of faith and launched his own brand in February 2015; Luxe Commercial.
“My main motivation was simple; to establish a boutique agency that focused on service. I wanted to bring a sophistication and sense of style that has previously only been associated with the residential market,” he says. “I felt there was an opportunity there and a gap in the market that I could service.”
The “Luxe touch” can be seen everywhere; from the slick black and white branding to the hard-to-miss signboards, from the sharp copywriting to the personal greeting clients receive onsite and in their offices. It’s a method that appears to be working with Luxe Commercial attracting a diverse range of clients; from mum and dad investors to developers.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a first time commercial investor who might be overwhelmed with the complexities of a self-managed super fund or a developer with decades of experience,” he says.
“Everyone is treated with the same level of service and respect. Buying, selling or leasing a property is not second nature to everyone. For many it can be a daunting or confusing process and we pride ourselves on supporting all our clients with their decisions.”
I don’t believe in getting ahead of myself, as soon as you do, you lose sight of your goals and targets.”
Local knowledge and networks are critical to understanding the property market, which has underpinned Luxe Commercial’s proactive approach to establishing a comprehensive asset management portfolio in the past 12 months.
Chris says overseeing the management of several industrial, commercial and retail properties between Caloundra and Noosa means he and his staff have a thorough understanding of market trends
“Our steady growth has been no accident, we have chipped away at the market and established ourselves in those areas we know and understand best,” he says.
“It now means we’re able to assist and work closely with clients or developers if they need market feedback or specific analysis on a particular project.”
Chris takes a lot of inspiration from his dad, Glenn Sales, who has always managed businesses in a number of industries, but predominantly commercial cleaning. Describing his dad as hardworking and an industry leader, Chris still goes to him to discuss business ideas and strategies.
“I will admit there were days when I was younger when I skipped school to go to work with him and to learn more about what it was he did,” Chris says.
“He’s the perfect operator, I’m always striving to be more like him each day. He has an incredible work ethic and although we operate very different management models he taught me the fundamentals of what it takes to run a successful business.
“It comes back to understanding the fundamentals of business and applying an unwavering work ethic. If that’s not there you’re only ever “gonna do” something without ever achieving something tangible.”
Chris discovered a passion for property a decade ago after completing a number of residential renovations for himself. Applying that passion, coupled with a decade of business experience and he’s hungry to see how far Luxe Commercial can go.
“There’s nothing about the industry that I don’t like,” he says. “I’m excited about starting work each and every day. They say if you love something it doesn’t feel like work or a chore.
Chris says underlying his passion for property is his knowledge and understanding of the Coast, his home for the past 25 years.
“It’s a tight-knit and supportive community, everyone knows each other and it doesn’t take long to meet people once you get involved and get out and about,” he says.
“I love living on the Sunshine Coast and know firsthand that you get out what you put in. I volunteer as a patrol captain for the Kawana Surf Life Saving Club, compete in triathlons and play golf when time permits. These are the things that make the Sunshine Coast such a perfect place to live.”
Having laid the foundations for Luxe Commercial in the past 12 months, Chris started 2016 with a new office in Cotton Tree and expanded to a team of eight staff. He now feels he is at the ideal size to handle the current market conditions and plans to focus on the business’s core values over the next year.
“I’m a firm believer that business culture starts from the top. My goal was to build a business that emphasised a healthy and enjoyable working culture,” he says.
“Employees have been handpicked for their attitude over ability, purely because I think you can teach ability, you can’t teach attitude.”
Chris says it’s a good time to be in business on the Coast with the property industry and economic activity on the rise with short, medium and long-term projects underway.
“You’ve got Caloundra South, that’s going to be a city the size of Mackay, and it’s only a matter of time before the Sunshine Coast links up with North Lakes,” he says.
“Once complete, the Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital and the Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital will create a billion-dollar medical hub with 12,000 jobs. It’s already having a positive impact, not only commercially but also residentially, so you can see the final result is going to be phenomenal.”
Chris also highlights the Maroochydore Principal Activity Centre/CBD as the region’s long-term boost, having an impact in 10 to 15 years, which will introduce more residential areas and demand for up to 180,000 square metres of commercial space.
In the meantime Chris will continue to establish Luxe Commercial, while trying to manage his work-life balance and enjoy the Sunshine Coast’s enviable outdoor lifestyle.
Words to live by in business
• I don’t believe in getting ahead of myself, as soon as you do, you lose sight of your goals and targets.
• It’s a constant learning curve in any new business, no one can possibly say they know everything. The next few years will be spent improving our systems and procedures because you can always do something better.
• With any business, you need a point of difference, a reason for people to come to you, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
• Real estate is not about putting up a generic signboard and waiting for the phone to ring. Every listing, lease and sale requires hard work and perseverance.
• If you’re not getting the desired result you have to change something or you can’t expect to get a different result.