A few minutes into my chat with Jeremy Cassar, Managing Director and CEO at ERA Real Estate Malta, I am impressed – not only by his infectious energy and enthusiasm, but by the passion with which the young entrepreneur clearly approaches every aspect of his work. Yet it wasn’t until relatively recently, he tells me, that he found the appropriate channel for it.
“Coming from Gozo, studying at St Edward’s College provided me with a good stepping stone and gave me many of the connections I have today,” he begins, however, upon starting out in the working world, it took Jeremy a few tries to find his calling. “I jumped around several career paths and positions, from catering to retail, but none of them stuck. I was always looking for a foundation, a basis on which I could build my personal development,” he maintains.
That came about in 2018, when he started working in property. “I used my flair for sales, which I had gained from working in retail and other sales positions, and became one of the top sellers in my first year. Things just exploded, and for the first time, I felt I was somewhere that I liked and could also excel financially,” Jeremy smiles.
Having grown up around a family business, he’d always had a business mindset, and after some time, Jeremy recognised that, while the work was what he wanted to do, it was time to build something that was his own. “This led me to open my own company, together with some partners at the time, called Property Hunters. It was then that I really learned the full picture – that running the company is not just about sales,” he explains.
Some time later, Jeremy went on to buy out his partners, and just as he was about to really put the pedal to the metal on it, an opportunity with ERA Real Estate Malta came along. “I was referred by a friend, who knew I would be a good fit – and that’s how it all started,” he recalls.
Looking back on his journey, Jeremy says that despite the challenges, he wouldn’t change a thing. “In hindsight, I can see that every stage was important, though perhaps when you’re in it, it doesn’t feel that way! Wherever I was, I always put in 110 per cent. Within the family business, for example, I was really thrown into the deep end, and had to oversee 30 employees at the age of 21. That taught me how to deal with problems head on and gain the right mindset.”
Of course, he considers starting out in property and finding his niche as a definite highlight, describing it as “a breath of fresh air” which really played to his strengths. “Opening Property Hunters was another milestone which took me from sales agent to business owner – it was all new to me, and it wasn’t easy, but also extremely rewarding,” he continues, brimming with enthusiasm for what’s to come at the helm of ERA Real Estate Malta.
Delving into the history of ERA Real Estate, Jeremy explains that it is owned by parent company Anywhere Real Estate Inc, a leading real estate brokerage with many brands around the world. “This gives us a very strong backbone , which encompasses endless support – from marketing to tech and e-learning, any support you need, you get it,” he maintains, adding that ERA is now celebrating its 50th anniversary, and currently boasts some 40,000 agents and 2,290 offices within 35 countries.
ERA in Malta was founded two years ago, and Jeremy took it over last October, opening its first office in Gozo last January. “I wanted to start solid and go slow, even though I had a lot of potential prospects and investors wanting to jump on board and be part of ERA right off the bat,” he explains, divulging his plans to establish recognition and brand identity in Malta and build a solid foundation based on that. “I want people to know what we’re all about by simply unleashing what we know as a company that has been around for 50 years and letting it take root. We just opened our office in Gozo, and are aiming to open our second one, in Naxxar, Malta, later this year,” he smiles, though is adamant about not rushing things.
“Everything takes time. It’s not only our agents that need to learn and adapt, but also everyone who is part of Team ERA. I see it happening all the time with other companies – they rush into things, start seeing signs of success, and then quickly start lacking because they wouldn’t have geared up enough to stay ahead of the curve. They end up setting sail accordingly with others on board not being fully aware, only to realise some time later. I’m very mindful of that,” he attests, adding, “we have a long and exciting path ahead of us. If we work as a team, put in the hard work and use the tools and network we have at our disposal, I’m sure we can provide an empowering consumer experience throughout. With all the support and power the brand has, it makes it easier to grow – we may be new to the market, but we are certainly not new to the industry.
“Real estate is all about relationships. ERA works around that foundation – it gives everyone the tools and the systems to gain trust, to have better relationships, to be flexible,” he continues, further explaining the benefits of forming part of this global giant. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every country and every market is different, so ERA gives you the tools to corner your market and make it local.”
And there’s so much information and support, Jeremy reveals, that it can sometimes be overwhelming. “There’s so much going on, and it’s exciting to see everything unfolding piece by piece – there are e-learning platforms and ERA’s own university for property agents, managers and franchise owners, conventions around the world… it never sleeps! Our brand awareness locally has already improved, and people are starting to take notice. We are showing the market who we are,” he says.
Moving on to his thoughts on leadership, Jeremy attests, “leadership, like real estate, is about relationships. You have to have a strong mindset, and keep going when you fail. You also have to be able to adapt to change, which can sometimes happen overnight.”
Emphasising the importance of not giving up, he continues, “there have been many instances where I thought it was all over, and then I woke up the next day and gave it another try. The hardest thing is to believe it’s possible, but you need to believe in yourself. It’s not easy, but you have to work through it, sculpt your inner self and slowly, it will happen. I’ve always been a strong believer in self development.”
This also comes across in his business. “In Malta there are a lot of local brands that don’t focus on self development – I see that there is an opportunity there. We can offer a lot for agents to grow, both within the workforce and within themselves. It’s definitely a challenge because it can be hard to change mentalities, but educating people is the biggest opportunity and challenge I have ahead of me.”
Ending our chat with a final piece of advice for aspiring leaders, the young CEO advises, “don’t take things to heart.” In an industry that’s built on relationships, it can get emotional, he says, but you have to be strong enough to take difficult decisions. “You also have to be yourself – sometimes people feel like they need to act a certain way or be someone they’re not to gain respect. I am myself, and that’s important – it’s your life and your journey, and you shouldn’t try to fast forward it, for anyone or anything,” he smiles.
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders 2022 project. The new online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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