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Case study: ‘I changed careers and became an award-winning salesperson’

Linda Harley became the first woman business broker to win REINZ’s Sales Person of the Year.

9 March 2022

Linda Harley never thought she’d find success as a business broker, until an early mid-life crisis pushed her into the arena.

She had started as a horticulturist, working with kiwifruit. But, after too many years in the industry, she realised she didn’t want to stay in the same industry for the second half of her working career.

Then, when her own business was sold by an “appalling” salesman, she thought: “I can do better”. So, she did.

“Until you’re really pushed, you don’t know what you’re capable of,” Harley explains.

Now, she’s been in the business of business broking for 15 years, specialising in the sale of childcare businesses for ABC Business Brokers.

She’s also the Business Partner in the Tauranga branch of the business.

As one of the very few women in the industry, being recognised as the first to win this top award means a great deal to her.

Women bring special skills

“Women have so much to bring to this male-dominated industry,” she says. “Women build relationships differently and have a more intuitive selling style.”

Before Harley was appointed Business Partner with ABC Business Sales in 2016, all her colleagues were males. Now, there are two other women on board in her Tauranga office alone – it’s been a big shift.

She says she hopes her recent success will encourage more women to take up the role, particularly because there have been a lot more women buying businesses.

Harley specialised in childcare mainly because they’re solid investments and require an analytical approach. They’re also highly sought-after.

She acknowledges the sector has had its challenges, particularly recently with the Covid-19 pandemic.

On top of issues like pay parity and teacher shortages, now businesses have to grapple with compulsory vaccinations and other healthcare considerations.

But regardless, it remains a “good solid investment”, she says.

Belief in the product

This steadfast belief in the product is important in a broker’s world, because they have to believe in what they’re selling.

“I just couldn’t sell a hospitality business, because I don’t believe in it them the same way,” she says.

“There will always be a need for good high-quality centres. The government needs more women in the workforce, and for that, they need affordable childcare.”

Harley says another reason for her choice was because she needed to find something she was passionate about.

She says the best way to become an expert on a topic is to specialise in what you want to do, and go for it.

Don’t try to be a jack-of-all trades. Pick one thing and do it astoundingly well, she says.

“Trying to be good at everything is not a great pathway.”

Along the way, Harley found an affinity for both the owners and the buyers which suits her business style.

In any transaction, it’s important to match them.

“Create that relationship with the buyer and match that to the need you have in the business.

“The right buyer has to buy that business or property, so the important thing I focus on is being a needs-based seller.”

Tell them straight

If it’s not the right fit for that buyer, you’ve got to tell them that straight, she says.

This isn’t just a “transaction”.

Harley herself has a well-diversified portfolio, with investment fingers in business, residential and industrial areas.

She owns her own home and says the rest is invested in the share market.

In her spare time, Harley enjoys the time she spends on her motorbike, or e-bike, depending on the season.

She’s passionate about what she does, and that’s part of her success.

“In anything in life – even bikes,” she says with a laugh.

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