26 Sep 2019
Words Ben Hall Informer Issue 95
STANDING UP FOR MANAGEMENT RIGHTS OPERATORS
Its origins date back to 1992 when QRAMA was formed in a Queensland pub with around 50 operators, and now ARAMA represents 2,500 members in an industry that returns more than $55.5 billion in economic benefit back to Australia each year.
It was a rare day off with the family from his fledgling management rights business and within 10 minutes of arriving at Seaworld on the Gold Coast, the phone rang.
His property was full and everyone was checked in, so what’s the problem?
Trevor Rawnsley’s daughter Emma was on the line and she told him some guests had arrived and insisted they had a booking and were really not happy to be told otherwise. They were quite irate and were not going to leave.
Trevor, along with his wife and son, promptly returned to their car and drove back to Nobby Beach and when they arrived, the couple had realised the mistake was theirs and had calmed right down. They were relaxing by the pool with a cup of tea each in hand.
“Emma was only 16 at the time and she had the presence of mind to show the couple the booking system, show genuine sympathy, and offer to help them fix the situation,” Trevor recalls.
“That was the moment that confirmed for me the fact that being in the management rights business is a 24/7 occupation and the upside is that you get to make some great lifelong friends along the way.
“That couple by the pool became good friends, and remain so to this day, and this is why I love the business and genuinely believe in the people who run these operations.”
Now the CEO of the Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association (ARAMA), Trevor Rawnsley heads the peak industry body which represents the interests of people who are involved in management rights.
His duties are wide and varied and he takes responsibility for the financial performance of the association, member liaison and operational advice along with corporate and sponsorship liaison, organising state and national committees and organising educational and information events for members.
He also deals with government departments and representatives, along with a multitude of industry bodies, as an advocate for the management rights industry.
Trevor began his working life in humble fashion, as many people have, sweeping floors at Grace Brothers in Bondi Junction in Sydney and his journey to the accommodation industry took a few detours along the way.
His career start in retail led to him becoming a store manager with Target in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and then in 1991 he left that industry and moved into the fast food business with Eagle Boys pizza.
In just six years, as national operations manager, Trevor drove Eagle Boys’ expansion from 10 to 140 stores. (Eagle Boys is now no longer. It was one of Australia's most recognisable pizza chains, but in 2016 it went into voluntary administration. At its peak it was the third biggest pizza chain in Australia.)
Then in 1997 it was a shift from the fast food pizza businesses to the telco industry where he spent six years as state manager of Telstra’s mobile phone shops in both NSW and Queensland.
His first brush with the management rights industry occurred three years later with a chance meeting in far north Queensland.
“I was on a work trip to Cairns and bumped into an old friend, Danny Little, who is now a management rights consultant with an interest in 13 buildings, and he told me all about this great new concept called management rights,” Trevor says.
“He was so enthusiastic and we sat in his hotel room from 7pm to 3am looking at P&Ls and he took me to school on what MRs were all about.”
The idea of getting into the business was formed after that lesson but it took two more years for Trevor to act on it.
“In 2002, I decided it was time to see what it was really like so I did a one month stint with Danny at Aussie Resort to see if I really was cut out for it.
“I suppose it was a bit like an internship and I can honestly say I’d never worked so hard in my life, and I had done some really hard jobs in my time.
“We started at 5am, cleaning the pool and the common areas then we would go inside at 8am to open the office and run that until 5.30pm and then dinner at 6pm and then answering phones and checking late arrivals and then crash into bed, get up and do it all over again.
“It was exhausting but really satisfying at the same time and I reckon I lost about five kilograms in that month.”
In 2003, Trevor took the plunge and ended up with a two storey walkup at Nobby Beach on the Gold Coast, called Nobbys Outlook.
“The plan was that I would keep my high flying job at Telstra and my wife would run the business. However within a few months we both realised this was not going to work so I resigned from Telstra.”
“I bought a set of one thousand dollar golf clubs when we took over nobbys outlook. I don’t recall using them once.”
Trevor Rawnsley, Arama CEO
TIME TO SELL
In the four years at Nobbys Outlook, Trevor tripled the net profit (albeit off a low base) and doubled the purchase price, while increasing the occupancy from 32 percent to 96 percent.
Those were great numbers but as he points out: “That’s not a great time to sell, as I found out. Always sell before you peak - there was no upside for the next purchaser!”
“All the same, the business was now in my blood. I loved it even though I didn’t have more than one day off in the four years we were there.
“I bought a set of one thousand dollar golf clubs when we took over Nobbys Outlook. I don’t recall using them once.”
After some much-needed time off, it was time to jump back in and, this time, Trevor was eyeing off a bigger property. In 2007 he bought into Aristocrat Apartments at Surfers Paradise which had 54 one and two bedroom units, with a mix of short and long stay.
THE PERFECT STORM
“It was really exciting at first. It was a bit of a party building and we had schoolies, which was fine, but then the GFC hit us, and hard, in 2009.
“Australian tourists were heading overseas as the Aussie dollar and the US dollar was at parity and the Kiwis stopped coming over here as their dollar was at $1.35. It ended up being the worst decision, and I wasn’t the only one. It was the perfect storm for tourism.”
Trevor did the only thing he could do. He worked the business 24/7 and eventually sold out in 2010 and it was then that he was tapped by ARAMA to become its first CEO.
He had been involved in voluntary organisational positions for several years while running his management rights businesses, and combined with his extensive corporate background, he was considered the perfect fit for the top job.
“I had worked for several years as an ARAMA volunteer brand president, and happily so, and I really wanted to take on my third building, and I still think I do now.
“Long story short the job was offered and I agree to take it for two years only. Nine years later and I’m still with ARAMA and happy to advocate for MR business operators.”
“Will I get back into another business? I think I will. I’m not sure when, but when it gets in your blood, it’s difficult not to think about the next challenge.”