Paul Blackburne, MD of Blackburne property group 	
Picture: Simon Santi / The West Australian

Leadership Q&A with Paul Blackburne

Source: The West Australian

The GFC proved a game changer for his business, the managing director of Blackburne Property Group tells Ben Harvey.

Most unusual job?

I had a lot of pretty odd jobs. After university I had five years working, travelling and living in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East and would take pretty much any job to help save enough to get to the next destination. The strangest job was definitely being a TV extra for a Chinese TV series for $50 a day when in Hong Kong as they wanted blonde foreigners to be standing in the background. They would advertise in the backpacker places around Hong Kong and it earned you enough to stay without spending your travel money.

Biggest or best career break?

Before starting my own property development and real estate business in 2003, I was lucky enough to work for my father’s property business for two years. I was able to download 30 years of experience from one of the best people in the industry. I was also lucky as I started my business at the start of a massive period of economic growth for WA. While hard work is part of the answer for the growth of Blackburne, I also recognise that I was in the right place at the right time. The GFC was also a great thing for my business. I moved from real estate into property development as so many developers became scared of apartments and there was a real lack of competition in Perth. I was able to buy a lot of good development sites when others weren’t buying.

Describe your leadership style.

For me it’s pretty simple. Firstly, get the best people, ensure they get a great working environment, reward them well and give them the freedom and support to do their job well. Secondly, always focus on creating teams. Businesses are mostly about teams and ensuring you get the right team dynamics which have team players is vital. Thirdly, the leadership team. Our executive team is outstanding. We get the best managers and empower them to make decisions to help continually improve and expand the business.

Most memorable executive moment?

Watching the news when Lehman Brothers collapsed in the GFC. I wanted to be one of the first in our industry to act and adjust to a new reality. We had to ensure the business was well positioned to navigate through those years. We ended up having our best years post-GFC as we had cut costs and focused on improving the business rather than growing the business. We were then ready when things picked up again in 2010 with very little competition and increasing market demand. It was the best business lesson I have ever had.

Do you use social media? If so, how?

I’m on LinkedIn and have found that at times some good contacts have come from it. I’m also occasionally on Facebook and find it a good way to stay in touch with family. Our company is a big user of social media and find it a great way to connect with our clients.

What do you do in your spare time?

If we have spare time and we are in Perth I go with my family to Parker Point at Rotto as much as possible. In recent years we’ve tried to travel as much as possible and the highlight was definitely doing the 10-day trek to Everest Base Camp and mountain-biking the Annapurna trail in November. This year we are hoping to expand the Child Protection Unit in Cambodia. Now I have the support of a great chief executive to help run the business we are hoping to have more time to help expand on the great work the CPU team in Cambodia are doing.

Best Australian holiday destination?

Parker Point, Rotto. On anchor, clear water, white sand and sunset is a surreal experience. Northern Territory catching barra in Arnhem Land is also hard to beat.

What was the last book you read?

Henry Kissinger’s On China. It’s the modern history of China told by a guy that was in the room. It helps understand what’s going to happen this century. Perth will be the same size as Sydney about the time I hit the age of 75 in 2050 so in my lifetime we are going to see a transformation of Perth into a truly international city. I think understanding China should be a much bigger focus for everyone. I think our political and business leaders can work a lot better with China towards creating a strong relationship based on genuine friendship and understanding.

Do you believe the Sydney property market is in a bubble? Will it be a hard landing and what implications are there for Perth?

The rate of growth in the Sydney market has been astounding and I think anyone with an understanding of markets would be concerned. Such high rates of growth are unsustainable and there is a real risk of prices coming back until the next growth cycle. The implications for Perth are very good. It means that Perth is now seen as very affordable and this will generate a lot of interest from the Sydney market. It also means that the overseas buyers that have been buying in Sydney are now starting to look at Perth which will help drive growth here.