The Rags-to-Riches Story of Benjamin Lai

2017-10-17

How one real estate agent proves that poverty and lack of education are no barriers to success.

2017’s MIEA-PropertyGuru Top Online REN, Benjamin Lai has been down the gutters with no work nor luck. The Seremban lad couldn’t seek for good job opportunities due to his limited education qualifications. He only managed to complete his education up to primary school level.

“I worked in Singapore for years as a worker, and I don’t have any other skills or certificate as my fallback plan. I was bad at communication, often a nervous wreck among people,” said Benjamin as he was crowned as MIEA-PropertyGuru Top Online REN recently at the MIEA National Real Estate Awards.

Benjamin credited his brother Jack, for introducing him to the world of real estate.

“It wasn’t my dream but I like to learn and hence to improve my life. My brother asked me to join him in Kuala Lumpur to embark on this new career path,” he added.

Benjamin was taken out of his comfort zone, embarking on a journey that was filled with challenges and uncertainties. He admitted that the initial stage was hard due to his incapability to communicate in English as his clients were diverse and came from all walks of life.

Things were not rosy.

“There have been times that I would be scrapping for money, unable to fill up the tank, which made it hard for me to mobilise to meet clients. There were even times when I couldn’t close a deal for months! I even ended up trying to get a part time job as a waiter. But nobody wanted to hire me because I wasn’t good looking,” he said with a tad of sense of humour.

Against all odds, Benjamin finally found his footing in the industry.

After 10 years of actively serving as an agent, Benjamin now owns a realty company alongside his brother. It is called Focus Estate Agency Sdn Bhd.

“The journey was tough but you will get tougher. The best advice that was given to me was by a MIEA lecturer. He said that the entire journey of an agent resembles the act of riding a bicycle. You can’t stop cycling or else you will fall. Hence, you need to constantly keep on going to generate sales,” said the 40-year old.

He might get exhausted from all the work but the rewards would constantly motivate him to go further.

“Nothing beats the feeling of being able to provide for the family. Besides that, the idea of having other agents under my wings keeps me motivated to guide them in this market,” he said.

Benjamin also credited the shift in technology when it comes to broadening his reach among customers.

“Online marketing has done me an immeasurable amount of good. It is crucial for the industry. PropertyGuru has proven, time and time again on how effective online marketing is. I have received numerous calls from customers who found me through PropertyGuru’s website,” he said.

When it comes to receiving the MIEA-PropertyGuru Top Online REN, Benjamin was indeed enthralled and in a state of disbelief.

“Winning is not easy because I am competing with agents from all over Malaysia. I am extremely happy and proud in receiving this honour,” he said.

For those who are just starting out in the real estate market, Benjamin has this to say; “Don’t ever give up. Get to know your weak points and strengthen them. Work hard and you will be reaping the benefits sooner or later.”

The Other Finalists

MIEA-PropertyGuru has also shortlisted two other outstanding agents prior announcing the winner. Among the other finalists that made the cut was Dominic Ong.

The 39-year old Penangite initially thought that the award’s shortlist was a scam.

“Upon receiving the credentials, I immediately felt honoured and surprised that I was listed among the Top 3,” said the former teacher.

“Internet marketing is extremely powerful. I only gave my attention to the platform a few years back. It has exposed me to a wide range of people out there. I have also seen more visible results with PropertyGuru in comparison to other websites,” he added.

As for Aw Peng Meng or better known as Allan, the honour was his when he received the news.

“It’s an achievement for me as there are so many agents to compete with. I feel very proud. I have achieved something to get this reward at such a short time,” said the 50-year old realtor.

Despite considering himself as a rookie in the industry, Allan credited PropertyGuru for its deep and fast impact on his career.

“PropertyGuru’s personnel would constantly update me to resolve issues and helps out to get more leads. They also encourage me to go the extra mile by improving my photos, briefs and constantly help out with the terms to advertise and yes, always giving great promotions for advertisements,” he added.

And what would be his advice to other newbies in the industry?

“Be prepared to work hard for the first 6 months. Learn from others and have good communication skills. Do your ground work before meeting clients,” he concluded.

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