When Matt Benson talks to his clients, he can’t always predict the response he’s going to get.

“I’m a real people person,” says Matt, “but sometimes you have to deliver news that people don’t want to hear.”

As a property valuator, telling a client their property is worth less than they’d hoped for isn’t the best part of Matt’s job. But it’s his honesty and integrity that have helped him and his wife Susan build their Ballina-based business, Eighty8 Valuers, in Northern NSW.

Servicing coastal towns around Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, the Mullumbimby hinterland and out west towards Tenterfield, their small operation values all properties – from residential homes and retail spaces, to commercial developments and vast rural pastoral holdings.

And according to this husband-and-wife team, which won $5,000 in AGL’s Big Boosts for Small Business competition, their success stems from investing time and energy in developing quality relationships, establishing values and being community-minded.

The benefits of being open and honest

Whether it’s professional or personal, the Benson family is heavily involved in community activities. “Volunteering means we can give back to the community, and it also helps reinforce our business values of honesty, integrity and commitment to the local region.”

But Matt’s primary focus is providing customer service that’s centred on managing expectations, being reliable and staying true to your word. That’s because property valuation work is largely driven by referrals, so your reputation within the industry is everything.

This reality is what fuels Matt’s passion for developing genuine professional relationships. Not just because it helps to protect his own good name, either. It also encourages the solicitors and agents who choose to support his business to continue recommending Eighty8 Valuers to people within their networks.

There’s the importance of being humble enough to listen and ask for advice, too – and Matt admits he’s learnt plenty so far from mentors on his own small business journey.

“I’ve avoided lots of mistakes and pitfalls by learning from seniors in the business community,” says Matt. “I’ve made plenty of other mistakes all by myself. But that’s OK, as long as you learn and you spread your risk.”

While valuing properties, Matt found his clients weren’t interested in dealing with pretentious businesspeople who talk technical jargon. That’s why he landed on the approach he still uses today: be straight down the line about things.

“I’ve built my reputation on being someone people can talk to. People want to be able ask what’s on their minds, and asking a silly question is better than making a dumb mistake.”

6_matt_72dpi-copy

A fitting way to invest $5,000

Knowing all too well the value of a great location, Matt and Susan recently purchased an office space on Ballina’s main street. Both plan to use the premises as the base for all of their business dealings, to help better separate their home and work lives.

That may prove tricky for Matt, who spends up to 10 hours a week on the road. “ABC Radio National is my best friend,” he jokes. But when he is in the office, there’s a fantastic new fit-out to enjoy – funded by their $5,000 win in AGL’s Big Boosts for Small Business competition.

“It looks great now,” says Matt. “Susan, my wife and business partner, runs the office, and she’s very pleased with how professionally it’s come out.”

Learn more about striking the right work-life balance as a small business owner.