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From loungeroom start to award contender: Buffier’s @HomeACT

By Amy Birchall - 17 October 2016 0

jessica buffier

A passion for high quality property management services and flexible work arrangements inspired Jessica Buffier to start her own agency, @HomeACT.

After years working in property and sales, the 2016 Telstra ACT Business Women’s Award finalist was tired of working what she describes as “crazy hours”. So, she founded @HomeACT in her lounge room, on a second-hand computer, with a three-month-old baby.

“I was a single mum when I moved to Canberra, and I was working 45 to 50 hours a week. Then I met my future husband, and fell pregnant with my second child.”

“It reached a point where I was sick of working ridiculous hours and having no time to spend with my kids. I was living to work instead of working to live,” she says.

Three years on, Jessica says she hasn’t looked back. The agency now employs five people and brings on between 10 and 15 properties each month.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it also offers flexible employment options for people who would otherwise not be able to work in the industry due to family commitments, studies or other responsibilities.

@homeact

“Having a flexible working environment wasn’t just important for me. I also wanted to give my employees the same opportunities. When you’re studying or you have kids, you can’t work crazy hours or spend all day chained to a desk,” Jessica says.

The office has a designated kids space and a structure that supports work life balance. Systems are cloud-based, so employees can work when – and where – it suits.

Jessica says her other motivation for starting the business was to create a new standard for property management services in Canberra. The agency offers a standard flat rate for its services, so clients aren’t surprised with any hidden costs.

“As an investor I understand the importance of a great return, but as a property manager I understand that planning, time management, smart systems and portfolio size are key to providing a premium service and strong return,” she says.

However, delivering high quality service means finding and keeping the right people. In property management, this is not always easy. Staff are often inexperienced, and turnover rates are high.

“A lot of property managers, particularly at big agencies, are forgotten. They’re under pressure. They work long hours. We had to really look at the format of our business and what we could offer to keep staff engaged.

“That’s meant smaller portfolios for each employee, flexible working arrangements and systematised processes that make sure there’s less room for error,” Jessica explains.

She also says her biggest challenge has been managing sustainable growth, particularly as the business moved from her family home to an office in Kaleen.

“We had to make sure we had the cash flow to be able to do that, and that our team was trained and ready to meet increased demand. Then my husband moved into the business, and we took the big leap of sustaining the household on an income from a single source.”

Over the next few years, Jessica says she’d like to complement the Kaleen office, which currently services all of Canberra, with an office in Canberra’s south and another down the coast.

“We’re in a growth phase. This is a business we want to be in until we retire and pass it on to our kids. We don’t want to build it up and sell. We’d rather have a business and watch it grow and provide stable employment for our team.”

Jessica says that she’s proof that “anyone can do anything”.

“The only thing that holds you back is yourself. You can make it happen if you stick to your plans and work towards your goals. Everyone is capable of doing this. I’m just a normal person who wanted to do something for my family.”

The Telstra ACT Business Women’s Awards will be held in Canberra this Friday (21 October). ACT category winners will go through to the national awards on Wednesday 16 November 2016.

2016 ACT Telstra Business Women’s Awards finalists

Entrepreneur Award

  • Fiona Fonti, The Rehabilitation Specialists, Fyshwick
  • Julie Okely, Dilkara Essence of Australia, Bonner
  • Tracy Keeley, BOOKPLATE, Parkes
  • Lauren Heys, Moxxi Group, Canberra
  • Dr Nicole Sides, Compass Fertility, Barton
  • Jessica Buffier, @HomeACT, Kaleen

For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award

  • Kate Seselja, The HOPE Project, Hall
  • Emma MacDonald, Send Hope Not Flowers, Deakin
  • Jessica May, Enabled Employment, Watson

Corporate and Private Award

  • Myfanwy Galloway, Functional Fitness Australia, Mitchell
  • Corinne Wallis, Arrow Facilities Management, Canberra

Young Business Women’s Awards

  • Myfanwy Galloway, Functional Fitness Australia, Mitchell
  • Lauren Heys, Moxxi Group, Canberra
  • Madeline Chacos, Infinity Legal, Canberra

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