Two Fucking Coasters!

Dear Paul

You and I never achieved the kind of respectful, working relationship I enjoyed with Brian.

Brian was demanding and insightful, he very often made me uncomfortable, but I was always learning from him.

You would come into the NSW office with your henchman, Peter Hanscombe and ask questions based on the strength of the Queensland business.

Ray White Queensland had earned and enjoyed a huge market presence, we were in a different environment, we were the new kids on the block, very definitely the underdogs in a market several times larger than Queensland.

We and many of our business were skating on very thin ice. Most of our new offices were small or start up businesses, competing with well established opposition in their market places.

Unlike Queensland we were not yet in a position to demand performance, our job with these businesses was to nurture and fertilise, hoping a percentage would respond and grow.

We needed to gain trust so our management and sales training would cut through the scepticism. The time Myf spent with our people in NSW would  reinforce this trust, that was her forte and there was no one better.

Our failiures were frequent, the successes less so, but; they were happening. These glimpses of light, would give us the heart to keep going.

Questions about performance based on experience in a market, where you were dominant were frustrating and counter productive. Sometimes, blind faith in the people we were working with, was the only answer I could give.

At the annual Company Awards night in 1988, you presented me with a silver ice bucket inscribed as follows.

Ray White Real Estate Pty Ltd National Contribution Award

Presented to Bruce Ingrey

For Exceptional Contribution to NSW Progress

I could not have been prouder than I was that night, standing on a stage in front of almost 500 people.

Just 12 months earlier, we would have been lucky to get 100 people to such a night.

Paul, I really appreciated this gesture and I thank you so much.

Often though; great gestures from you were followed by acts of pettiness and so it was to turn out.

At the end of 1988, Myf who was now running Victoria, Myself and Ian who oversaw Queensland, joined you in Brisbane for an end of year business wrap up.

We cruised the Brisbane River, having lunch on the boat while we assessed the year and planned for 1989.

I don’t think any of us expected any extra reward for what had been a great year, but; as we left the boat, you made a special point of handing each of us an envelope with instructions to open it when we got home.

I opened my envelope to find two fucking Ray White beer coasters with no card attached!

I don’t know why this has stuck in my mind, but; when people speak to me of Paul White, the vision of those two coasters is the first thing I remember.

Paul; a bottle of wine and a personal card would have been a great Christmas present and we would all have remembered this as a good day.

I just remember the meanness of two fucking beer coasters.

It is petty and it is trivial, but; when people give you their heart, they have a right to expect some heart in return.

In many ways, this tokenism foreshadowed the growing distance between you and I.

I am sorry this was to happen

Bruce

Risky Business

Dear Tone

My decision to bring you out of your hibernation to take on the role as Chief Auctioneer for the Ray White group in 1988 attracted some criticism.

No one doubted your capacity for the role or, your enthusiasm but there were many questions asked about the temperament of this “older boy from the bush”.

You had quite a reputation old mate, woman, were only the start of it!

How would this rough diamond settle into the role, dealing with some very elitist offices?

Every week, I would go down to the Qantas theatre and watch you perform as you sold houses in some of Sydney’s most expensive and refined suburbs.

To my relief, the first couple of Auctions went well, many people commented on what a refreshing change you made to the usual staid and stuffy Auctioneers they were accustomed to.

I learnt to my chagrin, that when Tony gets his confidence there is no place Tony won’t go.

I watched in disbelief one Friday morning, as my world crashed around me.

You were selling a very high priced property in the Eastern suburbs, the salesperson involved had been the prize recruit for our now burgeoning Double Bay Office and she came with a fearsome reputation.

Lil demanded perfection, what she got this morning was Tony in full flight, seemingly forgetting he was not back in the Bush, selling cattle in a dusty sale yard.

“Once more around the ring, Ladies and Gentlemen”

“Money is like horse manure, you have to spread it around to get the effect”

Oh, Tone; from where I was standing in the room you could hear a pin drop. If swooning had not gone out of fashion, I am certain there were several Double Bay Matrons who would have swooned in the best Emily Bronte tradition.

I looked at Lil, the daggers she flashed at me, would have pierced a Centurion tank.

I walked back to the office, wondering what the hell I had done.

I was not surprised, when a little later Tracey told me Craig was on the phone, Craig was one of Trevor’s new partners in Double Bay.

“Mate, Lil is threatening to walk out because your Auctioneer is a buffoon”

We organized a dinner for Tuesday of the next week. You and I would go and take our medicine and see if we could fix it.

You got lost on the way to the dinner!

Arriving much later, you blustered into the room, laughing about the perils of finding your way around Sydney.

That did nothing to ease the mood or; to enhance your professionalism.

Tensions slowly eased over dinner as you worked your charm and we agreed to see how things went from hereon in.

You charmed your way out of Jail that night.

After dinner as you will recall, you and I sat on a park bench in Double Bay, arguing about the situation till early in the morning.

You would never agree to change, but you did. Even Lil would eventually sing from your Hymn Book.

“Tempering the flame” became the byword for dealing with you.

You told me months later, that you realized you had passed the test, when I stopped coming to your auctions with my note pad.

Tone, we went on from this to forge a wonderful Auction business in Sydney; your enthusiasm and joy in your work, was now matched by your professionalism.

You made life fun when we did not even have time to laugh.

You were risky but you were great.

Thanks

Bruce

Ugly Politics ahead of an even uglier Plebiscite

It was a wonderfully calm morning across the Harbor this morning, as I got up and then walked to the corner for my coffee and the papers.

The Issue of the plebiscite on Same Sex Marriage continues to raise its very ugly head. What shames me most about all of this, is the weakness of the so called “Progressives” within the LCP.

There are two members of the Coalition are openly gay and, yet; they are condoning and promoting a plebiscite which will reopen old wounds for us older gay men and women and, open savage new ones for the younger gays in our community who are struggling with the acceptance of their own identity.

I would have hoped this issue would have been done and dusted; other countries have voted to legalize Same Sex marriage and the sky has not collapsed.

Surely it is time we can put this issue behind us and move on to start fixing other areas of public debate, this is not the best use of our Political Leaders time but has been drawn out as a last ditch battle between the Neo Cons and the rest of the country.

The longer this battle rages the more the potential for equality is damaged; this is the aim of the Neo Cons within the Coalition but why are they being aided and abetted by people who do and should know better?

A letter to the Editor SMH 30 August 2016

On the same day Tim Wilson backed a plebiscite on same sex marriage (SMH 30 August), the “other” Sydney paper ran a massive front page story titled “Thou Shalt not Pass” detailing a combined Churches’ campaign against this issue.

This is just a forerunner to the hatred and vitriol that will be unleashed, if this misguided plebiscite goes ahead.

Tim Wilson accuses Bill Shorten of being “all politics and no principle” I nearly choked as I read this piece of hypocritical garbage!

Tim Wilson should remember the time, when with NO reference to the gay community or a national plebiscite, former Prime Minister: John Howard changed the Marriage Act in 2004 to prohibit the ACT from legalising same sex marriage. That was all Politics!!

He does remember “crying” when the plebiscite was first mooted by Tony Abbott. That too, was all Politics!!

Well he should have cried! This is the only time in living memory when Parliament has abrogated its responsibility on a matter, for which it is legally entitled to vote.

True courage, Mr Wilson; would be for you and other “supporters” to cross the floor in the House of Representatives and vote for the introduction of a Same Sex Marriage Bill.

I guess that is asking too much; now you are safely ensconced in the warm leather!

Bruce

1988 a year of triumph

Dear Affy

I don’t know that your contribution to the group has ever been properly recognized.

I may have been the figurehead but we were a team, I have no doubt that without your persistence, loyalty and humor we would never have achieved the success we did.

30 offices in NSW had changed colors from the ERA network to the new Ray White identity by early 1988, and new offices were starting to come aboard.

It was your idea to charter a boat for Australia Day, this was to be a huge  celebration of 200 years of Euopean settlement in Autralia.

The day was wonderful, Sas and the kids were with us, Brian and Paul came down from Brisbane and I think, we even convinced Myf to come up from Melbourne. Anyway, the boat was full of friends, family and a selection of our best and brightest. The harbor was awash with pleasure craft of all types and the sun shone on this special day.

The dramas and uncertainty of 1987 had been left behind and we were full of confidence.

By the end of 1988 we had 77 offices in NSW, more than doubling the number of offices in this state.

Perhaps most importantly; average turnover per office had increased by at least 100%.

The result of this combined growth, meant total turnover for the State had increased by over 300% in a little over a year.

My little team had achieved far beyond even our own expectations, but there was still a lot of work to be done. We were acutely aware of the fragility of this growth and we were working tirelessly to continue the pattern.

In early 1988 we were aware of the need to appoint an in-house Auctioneer, you and I had been sharing this role and, whilst this gave us a much-needed insight into the workings of our offices and meant we were talking with our people virtually on a weekly basis, it was very apparent, we could not continue with this added workload.

Both of us were working close to 15 hour days for most of the week, starting around 7.00 am and often not finishing until later in the night.

Obviously, we could not maintain this pace, especially as most weekends, we were also needed to do a series of Auctions across the state.

I spoke with you about who could fill this role, we wanted someone who would share our vision and match our passion.

We spoke to a lot of professional auctioneers and soon realized we were not going to find our man in their ranks. The more established ones, viewed us as outsiders, as not being part of the establishment clique, whilst the others baulked at the workload we were expecting.

It was over a Scotch late one night, when I floated the idea of Tony.

You had known Tony from our Wagga days and I had known him for most my life, he and his father had often sold stud stock for my father.

Tony, alias the “Flying Auctioneer” was a renegade, he had fallen on tough times after his Albury business had failed and had retreated to Western Queensland to lick his wounds and to edit the local paper for an old Rugby mate.

My father was fond of Tony but used to raise his eyebrows at many of Tone’s more outlandish statements or escapades.

“Bruce, he is mad” was your first reaction when I mentioned his name.

“And we are not?” was my reply

I convinced Tony to come and talk with us and then to meet Brian and Paul. Tony could “charm his way through a needle to get to heaven” so Brian and Paul were putty in his hands.

Our mad, broken two-pronged pitchfork now had its third prong as we continued our march towards market supremacy.

The htree of us solved many of the problems of the world over our late-night dinners at City Extra on Circular Quay. We were all running in different directions, but we would meet there once a week to catch up, discuss the week and simply enjoy the irony of three boys from the bush, matching it with the big boys and having fun in the big city.

Those were wonderful days old mate.

Love Ya

Bruce

Family time

Dear Sas

For the family, the years 1986 – 1987 seem to have blurred past.

Whilst writing about business  over these years, I became acutely aware of how it had totally absorbed me and, how little time in these two years I devoted to you and the kids.

There were good times of course, we would explore our new city on the weekends and the kids made wonderful friends at school, some of whom have stayed with them through the years.

There were the trips down the coast when I would be doing Auctions and the family would come along for a short break. We would catch up with the old agency network down there, often staying with some or at least catching up for lunch or dinner. When they weren’t berating me about the forthcoming changes, they were just good people who we enjoyed being with.

Our annual Christmas pilgrimages to Bright in 1986 and 1987 were great times and wonderful opportunities for me to reconnect with you all.

There is nothing like sitting around a campfire at night with old friends or swimming in the still cold Ovens River to take a person back to his roots.

Your quiet support through the dispute with Michael was everything I could have asked for; It was sad the way this had turned out and it broke the bonds between the two families.

There was little talk of the demon haunting our marriage, perhaps because I was so seldom at home and the times I were there, were so precious to me.

There were many times when I wished it would just go away, I wanted the life you and the kids provided, without the constant, haunting presence of this seductive monster.

Your Mum and Dad would visit every couple of months, Ossie would fix all the little things around the house that should have been my responsibility and Esme would fuss around as only Esme could do.

There are some things that change in this world and some that do not. Ossie and Esme definitely fell into the latter category; this constant was incredibly important to both of us and to the kids.

There were a couple of trips down to the farm over this time, but it was not the same without Dad being there. Mum was not as tolerant with the kids because she was in pain a lot of the time and the effort of having five people there for the weekend would take its toll.

It was of course, good to catch up with Terry, Cheryl and their kids but the two families had grown apart and we had little in common

I think it was Christmas 1986 when we hosted Gutho and John’s crew for their Christmas party. You had become an important part of that office, I remember Gutho and I sitting on the back verandah surveying the garden full of your friends and colleagues.

Gutho told me what a wonderful person you were and berated me for the time I was spending away from the family.

He was right of course, and I should have taken more notice, but the lure of success and the next office was too strong for me to resist at that time.

I am so proud of our three girls and the wonderful spirit they have shown throughout their lives. If the process of writing this book has shown me anything, it has certainly shown me how much of the success of the girls in their lives, they owe to you.

Our family has stayed together through some very rough times; it has been your strength and goodness that has ensured this happened.

Thanks

Bruce

The battle begins

Dear Brian

Your support for the path Affy and I wanted to take with the merger was a leap of faith which humbled me, I did not know you well, but I certainly knew enough to understand your desire for success and your intolerance of failure.

I don’t know what you had conveyed to Michael when you met with him after our meeting in Brisbane, but instead of Affy and I coming back to Sydney and being immediately able to get things moving, we were confronted every day with Michaels continued presence in the office.

Whatever my differences with Michael, I respected him and it was hard to balance this ongoing respect with the need to make a fresh start.

Michael insisted on being part of every decision, I would have meetings with franchisees in the board room and Michael would insist on sitting in. Paul would come down supposedly to assist with change process but he and Michael would head out to lunch. The situation was intolerable and unfair to both Michael and myself.

As much as I was frustrated by this, I had to focus on bringing all the offices on board, getting the branding sorted and, attending to all the things that needed to be done if we were going to launch the new identity at the conference scheduled for late October.

One of the great pleasures at this time was the opportunity to work with Michael Bryce. Michael was an expert in his discipline of branding identity  and I learnt a lot from him.

Combining the ERA and Ray White branding, questions of color, even; the presence of ERA on the new logo, were bitter issues for franchisees on both sides of the divide. Michael Bryce was instrumental in helping us sell the new branding to the ERA members in NSW, his quiet professionalism, tolerance and patience made my job a hell of a lot easier.

The final logo and signage continued the Ray White colours of yellow and black but placed the ERA international logo promiinently within the new identity. It did not satisfy everybody and certainly pissed off the  USA connection but, this was the identity we chose to run with and it was my job to sell this to the ERA people. Weeks of talking and listening to disgruntled franchisees was starting to pay off, as they grudgingly came on board .

Several offices in Sydney and the Country held the key to the success of this move. A large part of my time was spent, shuffling between these offices, negotiating with them, cajoling them and pleading with them.

I remember calling you very late one night, I had spent weeks trying to unravel the Kensington situation. They would only move across if we could deliver the Maroubra territory to them and I had to negotiate with another franchisee to make this possible. I was exhausted, but I had finally put it all together.

My scribbles in my diary for Thursday 1 October display no sense of triumph, just a sense of relief this battle was over.

Paul was questioning me about Double Bay, Trevor would change over but, only if he could move to Double Bay. I had an undertaking from Trevor that he would commit to building a big business. I had met with Trevor’s potential partners and I was satisfied they could deliver what we wanted in this flagship marketplace.

Paul was unconvinced, urging me not to give away this prized location to a group of unknowns. I am glad and relieved that, for most of the past 30 years, my “group of unknowns” have been at the top of the rankings for the group internationally.

I am pleased and humbled you backed me on this one.

There was just one thing at the forefront of my thinking: “back good people “. I learnt this simple adage from you.

There would be many disappointments, but there would be also many great wins as this philosophy spread across the group.

My diary records that, in September 1987 the group had a record turnover of $170 Million for the month, this became our benchmark on which to build.

I would love to say the Conference late in October was a success, many parts of it were, but tensions especially amongst the Queensland group, still ran high. I went to bed one night, nursing a very sore jaw courtesy of one of the Queensland franchisees. Thank god he was three sheets to the wind and his aim was not that good.

Myf was the gem at this conference, her “down home” friendliness and simplicity, just the tonic needed to mend bruised egos and build bridges across the group.

Our first Ray White branded office opened in NSW, November 1987and we had our first in rooms, City Auction scheduled for 5 February 1988.

Affy had worked tirelessly to bring new offices on board in Neutral Bay and Mosman. Neutral Bay in particular, was a massive coup. We would proudly use the sugning of this office as a sign  of faith with other prospective offices.

Neutral Bay and Double Bay would chalenge each other for supremacy  for the next twenty years, it was this  type of healthy competition on which we would build a market leading business

We were on the move.

Brian, 1987 was a year of triumph and heartache. Your support for Affy, Cathe and I, during this turbulent year and, your confidence in us; is something I will never forget.

Best Wishes

Bruce