History Books

WATER BOY

How Michael Szulc found his way along the beach and through the mud to Port Phillip Bay and Albert Park Lake.

A careers counsellor's report from Year 10 is proof that Real Estate beckoned Michael Szulc from high school days. But he didn't dive straight in.

First he contemplated becoming a PE teacher, tried a hospitality degree, then switched to accountancy and failed the first basic accountancy subject three times.

Deflated, Michael packed up and travelled. When he came home, he needed to work. So he studied for his full Real Estate licence at night, and worked during the day at a small real estate agency in Geelong and opening display homes on Sundays.

The first subject for his Real Estate qualification was basic accounting.

"You've got to be kidding me", Michael thought.

He failed it again.

So he got a tutor and passed it the 5th time. That was the first of many accountancy subjects in the three-year course. But he stuck it out, and spent the first five years of his real estate career close to home, working in Geelong and Point Lonsdale.

"In Geelong I did everything," Michael explains.

"I'd write the advertisement for the Geelong Advertiser newspaper. I'd sit with the guy who'd type the ad at the newspaper. I'd write the board and then go downstairs to the signwriter who would paint the board. It took two days for the board to dry. Then I'd go out in the ute and erect the board with the board contractor."

Not confined to office or city duties, Michael was exposed to country auctioneering from a young age.

"The company had a country office in Ballarat so I experienced country auctions of small farms also," Michael explains.

"After an auction, my boss and I would go for a counter meal. He'd have a few too many and I'd drive him home. On one trip his car overheated and I had to walk 10km to the nearest farm to find someone to help fix it. My boss was too far gone, he couldn't move from the car.

"At another auction, a farmer's pig had born piglets who were scattered in the paddock and the farmer refused to auction the place until we found the piglets. We were running around scooping them up.

"I learned the hard way not to wear tan suede shoes to country auctions."

At Geelong and Point Lonsdale, his responsibilities were not just sales focused.

"We'd do holiday rentals, banking, collect rent," Michael explains.

"I remember one 80-year-old lady – who was virtually blind – who lived on her own. I'd knock at her door every week, she'd say: ‘Come in Michael, my purse is over there.' I'd take out the rent and bank it.

"Working at Point Lonsdale had its perks – my boss said it was fine to put the closed sign on the door, back in an hour, and get out for a surf."

A move to Melbourne was always the next step for Michael, who was ready for a new challenge.

"I felt like I'd had a broad experience," Michael says.

"I was doing a range of things as a kid that many agents aren't exposed to.

"I came to Melbourne and met with a couple of Real Estate agencies and Geoff Cayzer was one of them. I knew this area well as I'd often stay at my older sister's house in Richardson Street. They both offered me a job. I went home and thought about who I would like to work for.

"I liked Geoff and I liked what he stood for. I made the decision that Geoff's values were more in line with the values that I held." That was 23 years ago.

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