Aaron Wan shares his personal journey and how he uses his own experience, accumulated know-how and winning mentality to build the teams of agents under his watch
Aaron Wan is clearly someone who does not like to rest on his laurels. When he first landed the award of Top Recruiter at PropNex Realty back in 2018 a year after he had joined the listed real estate agency, Wan found himself disturbed and even panicky rather than elated.
The reason for his nagging discomfort? His team of 70 agents — which included part-timers — had chalked up an annual income from property sales of only $2 million, of which he had contributed the lion’s share of $800,000. “That means 69 are making a total of $1.2 million which is terrible to meet the daily needs for themselves and families,” he recalls.
Wan decided that it was time to probe and delve into more in-depth research into those under his wing. First, he made up profiles of his team members and eventually came up with four categories, before putting together a plan to better manage and help to motivate them to perform better.
That’s how he ended up creating his own “28 Masterclass” at PropNex.
Wan in front of a two-storey freehold conservation shophouse on Kitchener Rd he recently purchased, It was recently renovated and leased out to a laksa steamboat tenant (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Why 28? That was the percentage of his team members that needed the extra coaching: mainly family breadwinners, some of whom have made mid-career switches and are new to real estate which required new skill sets. Another 18% were achievers who had already chalked up some years of property experience while another 22% were part-timers which included undergraduate students and retirees.
Under the “28 Masterclass,” the selected agents were subjected to a more regimented and corporate-styled environment and series of training workouts to help them develop their own drive, potential and winning formula.
The programme has since evolved into a quarterly 13-week opt-in curriculum for the AaronWanDivision at PropNex which runs the gamut from specialising in different property segments to soft skills such as preparing for showroom visits, generating leads, closing deals as well as the use of digital marketing. The results from this programme have been nothing short of spectacular — team sales have grown multifold, rising to becoming one of the top divisions within the more than 10,000 strong agency.
Wan recently purchased a 2,800 sq ft, freehold shophouse in the Joo Chiat area to convert into an office for the AaronWanDivision (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Inspired by teaching and competitive gaming mentality
“One of my strengths since young was to teach, which was why it made sense to focus on those new agents who are still struggling,“ says Wan, 34, the second of three siblings whose father, Patrick Wan is a ventriloquist and mother, an accountant by trade until she decided to help out her husband.
Wan was a normal academic stream student who spent five years at St Andrew’s Secondary School. He said it turned out to be a blessing, as his forte was in principles of accounting or POA which he excelled in when he went to Temasek Polytechnic, partly because of his mother’s background.
“I found myself giving tuition to others on the subject during my time at Temasek Poly,” says Wan. “I gave tuition up to my NS [national service] days, where as a clerk, I could book out daily. That enabled me to save up some money.”
Wan had also parlayed his gaming pastime and hobby during his youth into a gaming currency trading business. It also laid the foundation for his winning mentality later in his career in real estate.
“In competitive online gaming, you have to have a winning mentality,” says Wan. “At the same time, however, you want to sift out the good deals; pick up and buy items that would make you a more powerful gamer.”
Wan brokered the sale of 18 Penhas Road to a buyer who intends to convert it into a serviced apartment (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Thanks to his accounting background, he was able to do just that. And he also demonstrated an entrepreneurial flair as a teenager. At the age of 16, he was buying and reselling in-game currencies with other gamers. While at Temasek Polytechnic, he also bought and sold second-hand wakeboards as well as imported Fred Perry polo shirts to sell from push carts.
Those accumulated savings meant he was able to purchase a freehold 400-sq-ft shoebox unit in a Paya Lebar development when he started working as a tax consultant at the multinational professional services and accounting firm PwC Singapore at age 22.
Switching to real estate
Despite his early foray into real estate “ahead of his peers,” he had not reckoned back then on a life-long career in the sector.
His entry into the realtor world was prompted by an old schoolmate from St Andrews who asked him to join him in taking an exam for a real estate licence, telling him that they would earn more each month than a junior partner at an accounting firm.
“I thought, ‘Why not?’ If I fail, I can always go back to tax consulting,” Wan recalls. He took a leap of faith and passed his realtor exams at the first attempt before joining the real estate industry in late 2013.
Wan brokered the sale of the conserved shophouse at 12 Smith Street. This was sold by a family-owned investment holding company to a buyer who converted this traditional Chinese restaurant into a trendy sake bar (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
By 2017, he was achieving $1 million a year in sales commissions, but he decided to switch and left his first agency to join PropNex. He has since gone on to rise through the ranks to become a Senior Group District Director.
Explaining his switch to PropNex despite seemingly hitting his peak stride, Wan says, “PropNex was expanding aggressively and was winning a lot of project sales from developers. PropNex had also announced its merger with the Dennis Wee Group and had plans for a stock market listing.”
He was also impressed by what he felt could be a more nurturing culture in terms of mentorship. He felt that would help to step up his team-building skills as he never had more than five agents under his charge.
“I didn’t know how to manage a bigger team back then,” says Wan. He felt that his management style back then was still raw and mostly on the fly, without any real structure or roadmap, and usually more motivational and sales-driven.
Wan (centre) flanked by two of his Group Division Directors Michael Lim on the left and Vincent Tay on his right (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
One of the many aspects of the PropNex culture that Wan appreciates is the company’s “no internal crossing” policy which prevents team leaders from poaching top-performing agents from other teams in order to meet sales targets or win awards.
As a result of this, he said team sharing has been more open and lively among the separate divisions, which also allows the leaders to leverage on the knowledge sharing to focus on growing their own teams and individual businesses.
In terms of his divisional training and style, his emphasis is always on three areas: to be systematic, detailed and structured. The training roadmap is progressive in terms of topics: HDB, resale, landed, commercial, digital marketing and more importantly, soft skills such as EQ (emotional quotient), NLP (neuro linguistic programming) techniques and reading body language to better understand the needs of everyone — from his own agents to clients and vendors.
That is why he would rotate not only his team members, but also other team leaders in his weekly, monthly and quarterly sessions.
“These sessions enable them to see how other leaders are improving their teams, and it’s also an opportunity for our members to shine, for instance by sharing on how they are able to close multiple deals at property launches,” says Wan.
Between now and Chinese New Year, Wan intends to host “Wan to Four” meals with his team members in keeping with Covid-19 measures which limit dining out to just five per group (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
He holds dear the sharing sessions as they celebrate the achievements of rookies who did well too, even if they missed their monthly targets for awards. “In larger teams and agencies, we often celebrate those who hit the $100,000 or the platinum mark,” he says.
By recognising rookies who did well, fellow newcomers can learn from their experiences too, notes Wan.
Wan also makes time for one-on-one mentoring sessions with team members to better understand their motivations and plans for achieving their goals. Between now and Chinese New Year, Wan intends to hold daily face-to-face lunch and dinner sessions with four agents at a time, given that Covid-19 restrictions of just five per group for dining out.
“With eight agents per day over two months, I hope my team members will still recognise me after this if I put on too much weight!” he jests.
Over the past three years, his team has quadrupled to 280 strong from 70 members previously. “As we grow, more people have heard about us — the team with lots of new, passionate ideas and newly promoted divisional leaders. You can say, we are the go-to team that newly licensed agents or those crossing over to PropNex would like to join once they hear about us,” says Wan.
Prior to the pandemic, Wan planned quarterly outdoor events like a trip to Universal Studios Singapore at Sentosa back in 2019. He believes that this forges strong relationships amongst his agents (Photo: Aaron Wan)
Besides team building, “my own transactions are usually for bigger property portfolios or multiple luxury properties,” says Wan. He focuses on both residential and commercial properties which includes shophouses.
His clients consist of ultra-high networth individuals and family offices, both local and overseas, coming from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines. “Most of my clients are referrals as I am a committee member and actively involved in various clans and associations such as Chung Shan Association (Singapore), People’s Association and Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), the latter of which I was awarded Singapore’s Most Outstanding Youth Award in 2017 to 2018,” says Wan.
Wan adds that he is also currently the key project in-charge for five projects that are soon-to-be or already launched. (See Table)
Meanwhile, on a personal level, Wan has traded up from a condominium unit to a landed property, and picked up two shophouses in the Joo Chiat and Jalan Besar areas during the Covid-19 period.
As a member of the collective sale commitee, Wan helped shepherd the collective sale of the former privatised HUDC estate, Raintree Gardens in Potong Pasir. It was sold en bloc in October 2016 for $334.2 million, and has since been redeveloped into the 729-unit The Tre Ver, which is 100% sold to date. Wan grew up at Raintree and his parents continued to live there until it was sold en bloc. With the proceeds from the collective sale, his parents are now semi-retired. “But it’s partly due to Covid restrictions that have limited [my father’s] shows and performances,” notes Wan.
Home for Wan and his family is a landed property in the East Coast with a built-up area of more than 10,000 sq ft which he purchased during the Covid-19 circuit breaker (Photo: Aaron Wan)
When Wan and his three sisters were growing up, they were child stars and performed live acrobatic acts where they were famous as “Wonder Kids”. They even appeared on television as finalists on Talentime Shows in the 1990s. The earnings from their performances helped to pay the rent for their father’s magic novelties shops, especially when they ran into difficulties, Wan recalls.
Due to the experience of such hardships growing up, Wan says he prefers to reinvest to build up his own investment property portfolio rather than splashing on luxury items.
Learning the ropes and team building with Aaron Wan
Two of the newly minted division leaders under the Aaron Wan umbrella share their experiences of growing their own teams and branding under his mentorship.
Michael learns to rock
Lim: Today, we are the biggest team under AaronWanDivision (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Michael Lim, 39, now a Group Division Director at PropNex Realty, had joined the real estate industry back in 2012. Previously a derivative trader, Lim had cut his teeth and learnt the ropes at the previous estate agency he was with. But over a span of seven years, he could make no headway in recruiting agents to form his own division, which had been his goal.
Instead, he joined PropNex and came under Aaron Wan’s mentorship. Wan encouraged him to set up his own division. After just two years, he is at the helm of his own team with close to 40 agents. “Today, we are the biggest team under AaronWanDivision,” says Lim.
“I had initially started with two agents in 2019,” he continues. “The team has expanded rapidly, especially since 2020. It has finally been able to fulfil our desired benchmarks to perform as a new division.”
Lim conducting a training session on landed property at PropNex head office (Photo: PropNex)
This year, his team has garnered at least one award per month on average across residential, commercial and industrial sectors.
On a personal level, Lim has been able to generate annual sales well above the income he earned at his previous firm. Other than the in-depth training in the different property segments, Wan taught him how to build a team and retain agents. Lim himself is now a trainer for landed properties across multiple divisions.
“Unlike in my previous firm where I had to attend a lot of career fairs, I hardly do that anymore,” says Lim. “I now recruit mainly through other marketing channels. In my current team, I have those who are just starting out to those who have more than 40 years’ experience, including two KEOs [key executive officers] who had closed their own agencies to join my division in order to build their careers.”
Asked about the secret behind his rejuvenated career and success in recruitment, he said, “I have learned from Aaron that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in recruiting and managing agents. I had previously had this wrong assumption that the goal is always about making more money for everyone when I was recruiting salespeople.”
Siglap Hill, one of the first landed property transactions Lim brokered on his first year as a real estate agent (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
He learnt that it was not always the case: Not everyone is focused solely on generating more income. For instance, some want to become real estate agents for better flexibility and work-life balance, while others are more comfortable dealing with rentals or specialising in the HDB market. “We have to meet their needs and not just our own criteria or expectations,” he adds.
In the first half of 2021, Lim decided to explore all the different market segments — from commercial to private residential. He became so proficient that he won awards and emerged among the top five in PropNex across all these market segments. This helped him in the second half of 2021 when he focused on team building and was able to recruit agents, regardless of their area of speciality.
Lim has parlayed his previous knowledge in trading systems into hardware and is responsible for the IT-related set-ups for his colleagues. He has also helped to coordinate the production of virtual tours for property viewings for potential buyers.
Married with two daughters who are still in primary school, he aspires to invest in a landed property somewhere in the East Coast, Bishan or Serangoon — areas he knows well and where he has brokered deals as an agent.
Leveraging network for greater success
Tay was the Champion Millionaire Producer of AaronWanDivision in 2021 (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
As a partner who had co-managed a small boutique real estate agency that catered to both local and overseas high net worth clients for almost 12 years, 47-year-old Vincent Tay admitted to experiencing “a bit of a culture shock” after moving to PropNex Realty Pte Ltd to join Aaron Wan’s team in April 2021. In less than a year, Tay has risen to the rank of Group Division Director.
“I was pretty much always the top producer with the previous agency and found myself competing with more top producers for position and awards,” he says. But the flip side of this newfound experience was the benefits he gained from an upgrade in his personal branding, such as getting greater recognition from peers for his performance and chalking up awards. It has certainly helped in recruiting fresh blood and getting more leads for his division.
Tay likened his migration to a new environment as moving from “a small pond to a large reservoir”. One of the benefits of working with bigger teams at the division level is the opportunity to learn from the sharing of ideas among the leading producers. “Overall, that has helped me push beyond my own limits,” he says.
Honing his digital marketing skills and using digital tools which he hardly deployed in the past has also raised his profile through multiple property listings and social media posts. “With the branding exercises and higher social media profile on Facebook for instance, I get more people approaching me for advice on real estate dealings,” says Tay.
Leading the exclusive training programme for PropNex Realty agents, Tay captivates audiences with his true-to-life experiences (Photo: PropNex)
He is getting more cold leads too, not just referrals from old or existing clients. Being fluent in multiple languages and dialects enables him “to communicate adeptly with locals and foreigners alike,” he continues. “This has been an invaluable advantage in my dealings with clients from around the world.”
With his promotion to a Group Division Leader, he will have more agents and new recruits under his wing, which means he has more training responsibilities including passing on his experience of dealing with high net worth clients and handling conservation shophouses, landed properties as well as good class bungalows (GCBs) transactions.
Tay was also glad to have helped groom one of his struggling agents to close more deals and achieve a breakthrough year in 2021. He also crossed the $1 million mark, despite joining AaronWanDivision only after the first quarter of 2021. Most of his transactions have been in resale properties with a focus in the eastern districts of 14, 15 and 16, as well as the prime central districts of 9 and 10.
Despite the Covid-19 related restrictions, Tay says the past year has been “fantastic”. Demand has been strong from buyers upgrading to bigger condominiums and landed properties — with home buyers wanting more bedrooms and more living space during the pandemic. Even investors are seeking for residential properties that are more spacious, he adds.
Tay brokered the sale of this conservation shophouse at Mosque Street (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)