Entry Education: the happiest workplace in Australia
Michael Dewar has been working in real estate training for the past nine years. It was during his early years in the industry that he realised there was a problem with the way students were being educated. His long-term colleague Ryan Keys had his ear to the ground as well, and was hearing the same troublesome rumblings.
It didn’t take long before they both discovered that traditional real estate training wasn’t delivering what students needed. ‘Where can I get support?’ was a question that rang in their ears over and over. It was those words from anxious students that spurred them on to plan and deliver what has grown into Australia’s leading real estate academy.
Dewar, along with Keys, is a co-founder and co-director of Entry Education. The company, which is now worth more than $20 million, continues to grow in both enrolments and reputation. At 34 years of age, Dewar is the older of the two and a natural entrepreneur.
It’s rare to reinvent the delivery of something as traditional as real estate education, but Dewar and Keys have done it with an extraordinary combination of business skills and human skills. The result isn’t just financial success, but a workplace environment that makes people happy.
‘We wanted to design programs that focused on supporting students and building advocates,’ Dewar said, recognising that cheering on students through their real estate courses would reap its own rewards. They embraced this idea so steadfastly that today they have a team of 10 people supporting their students around the clock.
Student support at Entry Education is as easy as using the messaging system in the online student portal. No matter what time of the day or night it is, a real person answers the call and does whatever they can to help. ‘Last Friday, one of our staff enrolled a student into one of our diploma programs at 12.30 in the morning,’ Dewar said, smiling.
Dewar also understands that people all learn differently and one teaching method doesn’t work for everybody. This insight guides Entry Education’s planning and teaching. While most students study online without any difficulties, there are others who struggle. Some don’t want to learn face-to-face, and others want to take each course component separately because delivering multiple learning tasks at once clouds their ability to see the finish line.
The Entry Education team is happy to sit down with students and work out how they can tailor the course to suit their learning style and, although they have a classroom, they try to keep the number of students below 10 or 12. ‘If we have 20 students in a room, we’ll have two teachers in there,’ Dewar explained.
Supporting students individually is a big task, but Dewar wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether it’s printing out coursework and posting it to regional Australia, or assisting mothers to study with their newborns, the team takes care of people’s needs so they can complete their real estate courses and get on with their lives.
Dewar and Keys run Entry Education in a unique way. Instead of focusing on formal traditions, they work at building trust with their clients and being relatable. ‘The world’s changing, and we’re moving away from the past, Dewar said. ‘People want to work with a trusted friend.’
With specific licensing requirements in every Australian state and territory, as well as compulsory continued professional development (CPD) education, they see a lot of real estate agents at Entry Education. Dewar emphasised the friendly, relaxed learning environment they’re continually building, including staff wearing comfortable casual clothes and even a dog or four in the office.
‘We encourage staff to enjoy the workplace,’ Dewar said, explaining that last night he stayed back and had dinner with a couple of staff in the office’s newly installed kitchen. Children also come to work with their parents occasionally and can be spotted happily playing table tennis, or absorbed in some other place designed for fun.
Staff retention is almost 100% and visiting professionals often express a desire to work for Entry Education. ‘During the pandemic, we had staff asking to take pay cuts to support the business.’ Dewar said, ‘But we wouldn’t hear of it – if anyone was going to take a cut it would be the directors.’
Michael Dewar – Director at Entry Group
‘When you find people want to come to work, then you find they want to do their job well,’ Dewar said. The directors also have a policy of never asking staff to do anything they wouldn’t do themselves, and they’re pleased to see people asking for assistance when they need it.
Both Dewar and Keys are proud of the inclusive workplace culture they’ve created. ‘Nobody should ever be afraid to be different,’ Dewar said, and that includes an open-door office policy and listening to ideas and ‘appreciating people’s opinions’. Some of the company’s best ideas have come from staff, Dewar said. ‘We listen’.
Dewar describes his biggest concern as making sure their people always feel safe at work and have a stable job to come to. To this end, the directors ensure they’re transparent with staff whenever possible about the company’s plans, procedures and processes. This includes their monetary position, as well, because they know it helps staff feel confident about job security.
While Entry Education has taken the real estate education sector by storm, it has also built a successful workplace culture where staff feel valued, supported and welcome. When people feel supported, they repay it with loyalty, Dewar said, and by all accounts, he values his staff as much as he appreciates his clients.
The new-age philosophy that to achieve customer happiness, you must first focus on employee happiness is practised by Entry Education in a typically Australian way. The emphasis on mateship; on the value of people just being themselves and of questioning the need for formality in an informal world is a breath of fresh Aussie air.
Dewar and Keys are knocking over their five-year business targets already and, as a result, have created three further Entry companies – Entry Finance, Entry Conveyancing and Entry Recruitment. Now known as the Entry Group, they have legions of students and staff cheering them on to new successes.