April 4, 2019

Brand Surfing

One of the things we treasure about our team at First National Byron is the diverse background and trans-disciplinary talents that allow for a rich understanding of our local community and property as both an industry and an art form. The diversity of people creates a diversity of thought and allows us to create a unique, rich experience for our customers, our team and our community.

Toni-Anne has joined First National Byron with brand and marketing support for the Su Reynolds team, but she first honed her skills in the family business creating beautiful surfboards for the modern discerning board rider. We caught up with Toni-Anne to learn about the merger between the business contexts of real estate and surfboard shaping, and how the connections between customer, community and brand are at the centre of her work.

To the ancient Hawaiians, the construction of a surfboard was a deeply spiritual enterprise, with tree selection and carving performed by priests of the culture called kahuna. The ancient Hawaiian practice of heʻe ʻana, which translates roughly as ‘wave sliding’, was not a recreational pastime, but an art form that integrated religion, culture and nature. To this day, the relationship between board and rider is special, spiritual even. Do you see a similar connection with your work in property and talk us through the home selection process as you have observed and experienced it?

Human connection and choosing a home go hand in hand. You will know when a home you enter is the right home for you due to the energy you feel from the home.

If you’re unsure about what feeling to expect when looking for the right home, consider in advance what type of personality you have and the home environment and vibration you need to make you feel relaxed and at home.

Usually, a surfer will pick up a board from the rack, feel its rails, analyse the outline, look at the concave and finish, get plain excited, and know it’s the one. 50% of surfers will still order custom made from their shaper every time, as they have the emotional connection with their shapers ability to produce and tweak the board to further improve their game even more.

With new technology (CNC machines and advanced software), Shapers are able to replicate the magic custom surfboards almost exactly. I’ve seen the use of technology improve the work of real estate agents, too, but in both scenarios that original human intention – capturing the essence and energy of a board or a home – has to be right.

Why did you decide to join the property industry? How do you reconcile the two worlds of surfboard manufacturing and property?

I’ve always had a love of property. Buying, renovating, selling and doing it all over again. My husband and I have been doing this for 15 years. The vision that comes to life from planning through to execution, building and styling is such a complete journey emotionally as the marketing moves from idea to reality. Each time we witness the house taking form as a home.

This love of property and property transactions is what made me step outside of the surfboard manufacturing industry and follow a new career in the property industry.

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to start my career with Su Reynolds team, and with it, bring some knowledge of building a brand with me to further grow the team.

Building a surfboard brand is not unlike building a real-estate brand/profile. Both are lifestyle-oriented industries who provide services and products that will appeal to deep emotional connections.

For a surfer, the goal is to improve all the time, surf longer, be fitter and healthier. For a buyer or Seller in real estate it’s to upgrade or downsize your home and lifestyle, create an investment portfolio for your future, or lease a suitable space to create your dreams.

Brand building in real-estate begins by offering a quality product to the market and supporting it with great customer experience. A brand is less about logos and CYMK colour tiles as it is about the consistent experience you offer and how that impacts how people feel and what they say about your business.

Word of mouth from customers to endorse a brand and creates longevity; this is the cycle of brand trust which creates growth in both industries. Shaper and Agent are both critical agents of impact for people to achieve their lifestyle goals.

A big part of the brand is ‘story’ and marketing and sales are closely related to the ‘storytelling’ skill. Stories have connected humans to events, to each other and to products for tens of thousands of years. How do you compare ‘storytelling’ in the surf and real estate industries?

Brand stories give them authenticity in today’s market, inviting customers to participate in the business. The surfboard manufacturing and real-estate industries are markets that are saturated with suppliers and so your brand and your story have to stand out.

My experience is that customers have become smarter than simply ‘price shopping’ when it comes to making decisions because their experience tells them that ‘price’ is normally related to value. What makes a business valuable is great product and great service for sure, but customers also really want to be a part of something bigger. They want to support great stories and be a part of the community where they live and work.

Working for Su is a great privilege as her story is not unlike my husband Jason, who is a surfboard shaper. They both started at the very beginning, infiltrating the community with a genuine desire to help, honesty and a hard-working attitude. For Jason, the desire to create beautiful, unique, artistic boards customized for an individual’s needs, gives the customer so much satisfaction and extra incentive to continue growing their ability in the surf better. Jason learned the trade through the generosity of established masters and has now reached a stage where he has taken on a number of successful protégé’s.

Su also learned the complex moving parts of a real estate transaction from a network of mentors and is now recognised as one of the most successful agents in Australia. Like Jason, she is now paying it forward, by mentoring a group of developing agents. Su’s genuine care and integrity has seen her rise to the top of her game over the years, and it’s inspiring to be a part of building her brand even further into the digital era.

First National Byron as a brand has deep roots in the local community. Similarly, your surf business supports professional surfers through their journey in the sport. Why is it important for brands to give back? And it isn’t just about a financial commitment, is it?

The level to which First National Byron, and the individuals who work here, are entrenched in the community through giving of support and their own time and skills is a big part of why I choose to work here. The attitude is one of inter-connected gratitude as the business supports the community by virtue of the fact that the community supports the business when it comes time to sell, lease, purchase or rent property.

Similarly, the privilege of supporting young surfers in their quest to qualify for the World tour is  humbling for any surfboard manufacturer, but especially for the team at Jason Rodd (JR Surfboards). For us, that surfer has been Wade Carmichael, who has finished 9th in his rookie year on the World Championship Tour.

It requires a long term commitment from both the surfer, the shaper and team behind the shaper that work together collectively grow the surfer, help increase performance and in turn promote the surfer’s brand.

Having a belief in a surfer’s ability to always better themselves, train hard, stay healthy, keep their eye on the prize (which is usually a World Title), is what motivates a shaper both emotionally and financially to commit to an aspiring professional surfer for the long term.

The renowned bond between shaper and surfer is usually fostered at a very young age when the surfer is showing early talent. The competitive  surfer relies whole heartedly on the shaper to know what tweaks to make to their equipment in order for them to perform at their peak in all different types of surf conditions all around the world. This kind of  board customization and trust, requires a bond between shaper and surfer that is unlike any other sport.