Top 10 Independent Brokerages 2015 - 2 TIFFEN & CO

Contact Information
Established in 1995
Based in Canberra, ACT
Managing director: Gerard Tiffen

“It’s business as usual, really” is how managing director Gerard Tiffen sums up the past year at his brokerage. But when business is usual is writing $493m in a city renowned for its sleepiness, you wonder exactly how Tiffen & Co do business.

Whilst the office has been revamped, notes Tiffen, a more important driver has been the Canberra market and a certain ‘Mr Fluff’. This peculiarly named scandal involved the government being forced to buy back 1,100 asbestos-riddled properties, putting a corresponding number of buyers on the market. “From a terrible situation,” Tiffen says, “the positive side is it has created a lot more work.”

In operation for 20 years and appearing in MPA’s various reports for a decade, Tiffen and Co continue to be a relatively localized brokerage. “Canberra can be quite a transient town,” Tiffen says. “Clients will be here for one to three years and then might sell and move to Perth. They’ll still talk to us via Skype, and we’ll do their application.” Nevertheless, these clients are mostly looking to buy in Canberra, he says: “I think people like to get belly-to-belly and face-to-face with their broker.”

Being an established brokerage means Tiffen & Co’s brokers have a considerable customer database to market to – so large, in fact, that they’ve hired someone specifically to contact past clients. “We don’t do this generic stuff” Tiffen says. “We write the articles ourselves; we’re specific to Canberra; we’re specific to our clients and referring to what’s happening in our area on a daily basis.” The brokerage contacts clients once a month through newsletters, birthday cards and phone calls. “It’s important you target you actual marketplace with real information,” Tiffen says.

Tiffen & Co sponsors and rides in a bike team, and the brokerage attends charity fun runs and balls. “We stay involved in the local community,” Tiffen says, “because most of the time they’re existing clients who have asked for our help.” The brokerage’s small marketing budget is mostly spent on entertaining local professional groups. “You create links over time, but there’s nothing formal in place,” Tiffen says. “We don’t pay for leads.”

Back office is a continual concern; the brokerage utilises a system where each broker is paired with an assistant and must account for the pair’s costs. It’s about tying costs to income, Tiffen says. “We’re service providers in a results driven-business. If you succeed, you get paid well. If you’re a bum, guess what?”