An excerpt from the Courier Mail Queensland Business Monthly
When a lawyer and a doctor met at a barbecue it sparked a new idea and booming Qld company. A chance meeting at a backyard barbecue led this lawyer and doctor to become friends and hatch an idea to build better retirement villages in south-east Queensland.
Halcyon - Joint Managing Director
Bevan was a GP and I was a lawyer in Beenleigh and we had crossed paths in the Beenleigh business circle once or twice. We both attended a Sunday afternoon barbecue in the late 1990s, which Bevan had been invited to as a new neighbour, and me as an old mate. We struck up a conversation about the issues facing an ageing population – something we both face first-hand every day in our professions.
We agreed it was time that someone created a new and innovative housing and lifestyle model for Australian seniors. We wanted to change the face of retirement living. After discussing the need for a superior over 50s lifestyle community at a barbecue in the late 1990s, Bevan and I sat on the idea but stayed in touch.
I was just leaving my law practice and Bevan was still a GP when we launched our first community – Halcyon Parks on the Sunshine Coast, which opened to the public in 2004. Fifteen years later, Halcyon has established seven lifestyle communities in south-east Queensland that are home to more than 2000 people, with two new communities launching this year.
Outside an obvious gap in the market, my passion for Halcyon and everything we work towards really came from personal experience. I was living with my grandmother when I was in university and I noticed she had become a prisoner in her own home. She was fearful of being robbed and worried about her safety, and ultimately was getting a bit lonely. At Halcyon, we work to create and maintain an entire community – it’s not just housing, it’s about how you make people feel.
With my legal background, I tend to focus more on the business management side of things, from legal acquisition, planning, establishment, and structuring - how new communities look and how we make them a reality. While the day-to-day pays the bills and provides me with a true sense of satisfaction and pride, the most rewarding part of the job is always meeting our new homeowners when they move in.
Thanks to Bevan’s extensive career as a GP, he has a very deep understanding of our customer needs, physically and mentally, and how to meet them. You can’t work out how to meet our resident needs without knowing what makes them tick – his career in healthcare for over 50s has proved infinitely useful. It helps us understand what a community looks like and how to build one with longevity and heart.
Dr Bevan Geissmann
Halcyon - Joint Managing Director
It’s actually quite a funny story to tell – one of those things of accidental bump-ins that lead to two people that want to work together with a common vision.
As a doctor in a small town, we avoided lawyers like the plague – they were always trying to sue us! I kept my distance and played hard to get for a while, but eventually, we got to talking and found a lot in common. In our professions, we both came up against the challenges facing Australia’s ageing population and wanted to find a long-term solution.
I’ve seen issues arise with joint managing directors when one had started the company and one came in later, with a power struggle breaking out. Paul and I are lucky enough to have started the business together as joint managing directors, with a shared vision, goals and objectives.
Of course, it’s not always been smooth sailing. Paul and I share the same trophies and scars, there have been celebrations and disagreements, mistakes and discoveries.
Together we share the same attitude to business such as focusing on being better, not necessarily bigger and refining, not rushing. The past two years have seen phenomenal growth in the lifestyle community sector, particularly in south-east Queensland. In 2015, there were 450 new lifestyle community homes for sale in the region, and four years later, we’re looking at a 300 per cent increase with 1,200 homes in the market.
While we will continue to grow our footprint in this region, we are getting to a stage where we can start to explore other opportunities outside of Queensland. We’re always being asked to open communities in the southern states, where there’s no offering akin to Halcyon’s. Of course, not everything goes rosy every time, but we genuinely consider what’s best for our homeowners. In any business, there is always what’s good for the customer and what’s profitable for the company, commercially.
When the GFC hit, residential property on the Gold Coast was dire. Our Gold Coast community Halcyon Waters was being developed with a large group of people having already purchased homes. All other developers were cutting prices and getting out of town, but we didn’t do that. We dug down, remoulded our product and decided we’d rather sell more slowly than drop our prices and disappoint our current homeowners. That loss of community would have killed our business more than the slowed sales did.
The secret to a great working partnership is the mix of salt and pepper to get the right flavour. I look after slightly different areas of the business and see a little more of the customer, work mostly with our sales team and within individual communities.
Paul has a very broad corporate mind, which gives us a nice backbone to the way the business runs. He can sit back and look across the business in a different way to me, while always keeping our homeowners’ needs front of mind at every opportunity.