Principal Licensee / Partner / Asset Manager
What do you get when you combine a former TV aerial installer and a former Harvey Norman franchisee? Your first thought might not be a commercial real estate agency, but that’s exactly the story behind The Commercial Guys. Five years on, the company now manages over 200 tenancies across 120 properties and, from the start, they’ve focused on being digital-first.
"My dad was a TV repairman and I left high school and became a TV aerial installer,” says Adam Leishman, Partner at The Commercial Guys.
“I had that business for 23 years with 12 vans running around south-east Queensland installing TV antennas. It made me good money, which I used to buy commercial properties.”
“Real estate was one of those things I just kept leaning into and my business partner, a franchisee for Harvey Norman, shared my desire to get into commercial real estate.”
“We decided, ‘alright, let's start an agency, but this is how we're going to do it: we're going to be digital, we're going to be flexible, and we're going to be nimble.’”
With that framework in mind for how they wanted to operate, the initial step was to build the business on a platform that could support their ambitions. The Commercial Guys search for a property management solution initially focused on products that were designed for residential management and did not specialise in commercial properties. Nothing felt like the right fit for The Commercial Guys until Adam heard about Re-Leased on a podcast, and knew he had found what they were looking for.
"At about the same time I started the business I also started a weight loss journey, and I started running. I would run and listen to podcasts. I listened to an interview on the Cloud Stories podcast with Tom Wallace, the Re-Leased CEO."
"He was talking about the Re-Leased product and I thought ‘This is just what I'm going to need for my business’. From there, we got signed up and Re-Leased has been with us from the beginning.”
When we looked at the other options, they were all residential-focused with an adaptation for commercial. With Re-Leased, you knew it was built as a commercial-first product.
Since then, The Commercial Guys have grown alongside Re-Leased and as Adam notes, the platform’s expanding capabilities have been implemented just as they need them.
“We were uploading ABA files and just as we were looking for the next thing, someone at Re-Leased reached out to ask us, ‘Hey, would you like to play with bank feeds?’”
“We were seeing rent reviews that weren't in line, the rent review date and the payment frequency date were different, and that was starting to get clunky because we were doing more and more. Then Re-Leased brought out a solution where it calculates that in the background. It's been really great to watch the evolution of the platform.”
And Re-Leased is just one part of the company’s mission to embrace technology. The systems and approaches The Commercial Guys take are a bit different to the traditional methods of commercial real estate and that has been a deliberate decision from the beginning. Using connected cloud software, Adam has built an integrated ecosystem to set The Commercial Guys apart.
I always said when we started that I wanted no paper. We started a commercial real estate agency with no chequebook, and we don't have a trust account receipt book.
We use Dropbox and Office 365 on laptops, and the phone system is an app on our phones.
Their focus on a digitally integrated ecosystem was undoubtedly a key factor in enabling The Commercial Guys to keep operating without missing a beat when COVID-19 lockdowns began. It also gives them the confidence that they will be ready for anything else that comes their way in the future.
“I call myself the Chief Everything Officer because it's a small business. My business partner is the sales guy. He doesn't want to know how any of it works, he just wants to know it works. I'm the reverse of that, I make sure everything works.”
“When COVID-19 happened I didn't even have to stop for five seconds to change anything or to explain anything to anyone; it was already all in place.”
A massive benefit to being digital-focused is that you're disruption-ready.