14 years of industry innovation

A message from our CEO & Founder, Joseph Chou

Recently I’ve been reflecting on our business’ evolution over the last 14 years, as we enter our ‘third phase’.

What I wanted to share – with both our valued customers as well as my fellow Ironfish colleagues – is how committed Ironfish has been and continues to be to our founding principle of innovation.

When people think about innovation, they often think about technology or products. But innovation to me is also about how we can innovate in the value we add to our customers and the quality of our customer service.

In Jim Collins’ book, “From Good to Great”, he summarises the key difference that underpins great companies in the world and it’s not that their products or technology were necessarily better. What he found was that they stuck to their core values, and they had an ‘audacious’ goal to be the best at their one particular niche.

Ironfish, from the start, has always been about delivering value to our customers – while that mission hasn’t changed, we have always sought to improve or innovate how we do it.

At Ironfish we also have always had the goal of being the best property investment services provider – and to do so, 14 years ago, we innovated the industry via a new business model.

Ironfish’s first 7 years – a unique business model and scale

Traditionally there have always been 3 types of property companies:

  1. Developers, whose business model is to manufacture and deliver a product – whether for a home owner or investor, it doesn’t matter.
  2. Real estate agents, whose model is (typically) to sell someone a home. People don’t change homes often, so there’s little need for an ongoing relationship.
  3. Project marketers, whose model is to service developers and sell new/off-the-plan properties – to them, the more listings the better. These companies mushroom during a property boom, and fade as the market cools. They also don’t mind too much whether their buyer is a home owner/investor, whether or not they settle, or hold the asset long-term.

While Ironfish has its own development arms, operates under a real estate license and does sell new and off-the-plan properties, we do not fit in any of these industries. In founding Ironfish we created our own model – an innovation in itself.

What we saw in the market, was a big emphasis on sales transactions and little emphasis on long-term service for investor. We also noticed that there was very little-to-no financial or wealth education available. Given our own experience as investors, we wanted to help more people understand the need to build assets and wealth for the future and help them take action.

So, from day one, we put investors at the top of our value chain; if customers are happy with the service we provide and with the quality of properties we recommend, they will trust us and come back to us for future investments.

With a strong customer base, track record and reputation, we have the ability and group buying power to work with leading developers in Australia, in turn, securing excellent pre-market opportunities for our investors that simply can not be found on typical real estate platforms like Domain or Realestate.com or via new players in the market.

With this sound foundation we have a great platform for staff to grow and develop with us in long-term careers.

With this model established, we then looked to quickly scale up nationally. Having a national reach with localised service was also a novel concept at the time, and to this day has not been replicated in our industry at our scale.

As we know, the property market works in cycles, and cities are always at different points in the cycle. Helping investors in Sydney, for example, to take advantage of Melbourne market opportunities was a key service we could provide our investors.

In building out a national network, we thought about a franchise model, but were not convinced we could keep our customer-centric culture and service consistent. Instead, we opted for a genuine ‘partnership’ model with multiple business partners with a shared vision – also a unique concept in the industry.

The next 7 years of innovation – building a strong eco-system

After a period of explosive growth, Ironfish as a business started to have the courage to walk away from more developers. Whilst we had already been selective about developers and properties in the first seven years, we were now determined to be even more selective and work only with the best. Whether this was Mirvac, Stockland or Frasers or boutique and multi-award-winning developers like Aria.

In this period, we also branched out and established our own development arms to fill a gap in a particular market or location, and also to provide further value we could pass on to our investors. Hence Starfish, IFD and ArcOne were established – and so much heart and passion goes into our developments.

Our Portfolio Approach strategy was enhanced in this period, and our property management arms established all over Australia. These were all designed to extend the Ironfish service, so the experience of investment could be as simple and seamless as possible for our customers. This was the beginning of the Ironfish eco-system – and I’m proud to say that literally no other company in our space has managed to achieve this.

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