Kylie Dennis has been appointed as group general manager for Independent real estate. Photo: Supplied.
Kylie Dennis is breaking new ground in Canberra real estate. She’s just been announced as the first female group general manager in Independent’s history.
Independent was established in 1958 and now has five sales offices, a large strata and facilities management business and the biggest project marketing business and property management portfolio in Canberra.
Kylie joins the company after a long career at Fairfax and Nine Entertainment, where she was national sales director. Her appointment is part of Independent’s business transformation which is focused on a new leadership team and strategy. She is delighted to be working back in Canberra, where she’s lived for 20 years.
It’s a significant career change for the former media executive – and quite a journey from Crookwell, where she grew up in a family that ran the local newspaper – but the challenge is one Kylie is relishing.
“All of the jobs I’ve worked have been male dominated, and this doesn’t feel particularly different,” she says. “Around International Women’s Day, I was reflecting that in real estate, performance is really the equaliser in terms of how women are regarded in this industry. In making this move, I’ve had a lot of support from male colleagues and team members.”
The new Independent board members are (from left, standing) Wayne Harriden, Mark Wolens, Stan Platis, Paul Corazza, and (from left, seated) Grahame O’Brien and Chris Uren. Photo: Supplied.
Independent was keen to recruit someone who’d bring skills from the corporate world including transformation, change management, succession planning and career paths in the industry. Kylie says that after decades in the Australian media, change doesn’t faze her.
“People talk about massive change, but in the media it felt like change every two weeks,” she says. “It’s good to be able to say the change pace is fine and that we can manage it well. There are some ways to do better through change.”
Real estate was top of Kylie’s list after taking a redundancy from Nine during the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry’s buoyancy and the positive outcomes from property were particularly appealing.
“Property is an easy industry to love and to be interested in,” she says.
“Independent is one of those iconic brands for me, and at this point where we’ve moved towards focusing fully on Canberra and the surrounding region, it felt like a great fit.”
Culture will be key as the company’s focus changes. The Independent Foundation has given more than a million dollars to the Canberra community and the Independent team regularly conducts fundraisers like the Independent charity football competition, complete with an auction, bake sale, sausage sizzle and social competitions, all of which help build team spirit.
In changing direction, Independent is divesting a number of external investments including Laing+Simmons, a finance business and other acquisitions that no longer made sense under the Canberra-first strategy. The current priorities include growing its established home market, where it is already successful, and to that end there will soon be a major recruitment campaign to significantly boost the sales force.
The market is very strong: there’s a notable lack of supply across Canberra and the company’s average sale price in 2021 is more than $900,000. Figures released by Domain show the median house price in the ACT rose by 9.1 per cent to $855,530 in 2020, significantly higher than the national average of 5.8 per cent.
Rentals are also scarce and the company has worked hard to support landlords and tenants through recently stressful times.
The selling point for Independent is a combination of deep local knowledge and being large enough to move the dial in the market. Kylie says technological innovation has also played an important role in the company’s evolution.
“We can be a trusted advisor for clients,” she says. “It’s about understanding that buying or selling a house can be the biggest transaction in your life so you want experience and also technology to help that process. Our infrastructure means we can do things better. That’s our aim.”
As Kylie takes the reins at Independent, long-serving CEO John Runko will begin a part-time consulting role with Independent, and managing director John Minns, who has worked in the business for many years, is leaving to explore new opportunities.
A new board has been appointed, comprising six of Independent’s major shareholders who are all actively involved in running parts of the business, and who have 170 years of combined real estate experience. They are Wayne Harriden, Stan Platis, Paul Corazza, Mark Wolens, Grahame O’Brien and Chris Uren.