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Dean Ind: The property industry lacks ethical leadership

The property development industry has long had a reputational problem. AIM chief executive David Pich checked in with Dean Ind, managing director of Invest Property Solutions in Queensland, to see how good leadership could make a difference.

DAVID PICH: Tell me a little about your business.

DEAN IND: I started Invest Property Solutions 17-and-a-half years ago [as a solo operation]. Since then I’ve developed a team of associated business groups. I liaise with buyers of all sizes, from smaller investors looking for advice on property investment to larger transactions such as joint ventures, where I seek out investors.

I also do house-and-land builds for clients in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and [right] up to Central Queensland.

To me, my clients are more like family and I like to make sure that they’re very well catered for.

If my client’s in a bit of trouble I will know the way of fixing the problem or I use my contacts to get them out of their troubles.

DP: What’s your personal perspective on leadership?

DI: Essentially, leadership is about building up skills, much like putting the bricks in the wall you are building. You, as the leader, are passing on the information [to staff and partners] so that they have a holistic picture of how the business is run.

DP: What about your personal management style – how would you describe the way that you manage your team and your business and your clients?

DI: Tough love. I make sure I support, I make sure if they are in trouble, if they need help I’m always there. But if they also make a mistake I don’t get angry about it, I just firmly explain where they made the mistake, how to rectify it and how to make sure not to repeat that mistake.

DP: How do you think some of your sales people might describe your style, because sales people are pretty difficult to manage, isn’t that right?

DI: They are very difficult to manage because of different personality clashes and what’s going on in their personal life and so on. They will probably say of me that … I’m dedicated and supportive.

I’m always there to guide and help them out. I like to be a bit of a perfectionist.

The first thing I say to them in the interview is: “If you don’t have ethics and morals, and if you don’t have your client’s best wishes in hand, and in your own heart, do not work for me.”

There are too many people out there that will do wrong by their clients just so they can line their pockets with money.

DP: Would you say that ethics and ethical leadership have been lacking in the property industry?

DI: It’s massively lacking in the industry because it [the industry] is money driven. There are too many people out there that will do wrong by their clients just so they can line their pockets with money. But if you do the right thing by your client and you look after them, they are going to always tell three of their friends how good the service was and how good the results were.

DP: We have a nation that’s built on speculation in property. Yet it’s the one sector as you say that has a reputational problem. How do you pick the good leaders?

DI: It’s a gut feeling, I suppose, but I’d always highly recommend asking questions and taking notes. Let the person know what your goals and wishes are. Let them answer the questions and then, when you interview them again, ask the same questions. If they are telling you the truth they are always going to have the same answers.

DP: You’ve set this business up with what sounds like a very ethical framework and a sense of doing the right thing by the clients. How have you managed to disseminate that view down to the people in your network who are representing you?

DI: It’s like growing a crop: you lay a seed, and you nurture and water that seed. The first thing I always say to anyone on my team is that “my clients are number one. You do not do anything wrong by my client. If you do, you know you’re not going to be working for me”. My business philosophy is your client is your friend. They are your family member. So you treat your friends with kindness, sincerity and you do anything for your friend.

DP: So it’s about living up to your responsibilities? It sounds to be about personal responsibility and I think one of the things I find is that leadership is about recognising when you get things wrong and then fixing them.

DI: As you get older you learn from those mistakes and you become a better person. You become a smarter person. You become more understanding of what’s actually going on.

DP: So what does a successful leader look at in other leaders?

DI: Someone who can accept other people’s personalities and understand their needs and their desires. But to understand their needs and their desires you’ve got to really deeply understand who they are and what their background is. To do that you have to ask questions – you find out about that person.

DP:  In my experience so many leaders or managers have an inability to say no – it’s about drawing the line. Do you have any examples in your business life where you’ve drawn the line and had to say no?

DI: There are plenty – thousands of them. I’ve dealt with a lot of developers in my career and they can be extremely stressed because they’ve got high debt and they will do anything to cut a deal. So there have been plenty of times where I’ve been asked to do certain things or close the deal a certain way, and to me it was wrong and I just say, “No, sorry, it doesn’t stack up” or “It’s not the right type of property for my client”.

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