WE SUCCEED THROUGH INCLUSION Stella Abraham, Head of Residential Leasing and Relocation, Hong Kong
When Stella Abraham was working in Planet Hollywood London 20 years ago, little did she expect that she would end up being the Head of Residential Leasing and Relocation in Hong Kong today.
The hospitality industry may seem like a drastically different one from real estate, but Stella says the skills she learnt in managing people and relationships she picked up early in her career has helped her tremendously.
“I had to approach and manage all types of customers in the hospitality industry. And there was once I had to serve a customer who just wanted to eat wonton noodles. And he was none other than Mr Die Hard, aka Bruce Willis himself,” she chuckles. “So I walked to Chinatown to buy wonton noodles for him.”
The small incident throws into sharp focus Stella’s long-standing belief in customer service and empathy. “Part of our work in JLL is to come up with solutions for our clients. I can’t change the market for my clients. But what I can do is to find the best solution for them.”
Stella believes success with clients stems from being able to appreciate differences in opinions. She is a true advocate of embracing differences in the workplace – be it in experiences (like herself) or simply in other aspects such as gender and age.
Because while real estate is often associated with being male dominated, Stella leads a team of negotiators, which initially was made up of mostly women with different backgrounds, experiences, and interests. “We were lacking men and their experience and outlook was different. We made a conscious decision to reach out to a different group of people and we have recently recruited some male negotiators. The team has benefited from this.”
“I try not to forget my own experience as a negotiator,” she says. “The most important thing is that you have to remove your own opinions and empathize with your clients’ needs, and find out what’s important to them Clients and their needs vary –we have lawyers, banking professionals, people in the fashion industry – and we have to put ourselves in their shoes.
And Stella walks the talk. She has also been an active member of the Diversity and Inclusion Group for the past three years in our Hong Kong office, and took on the chair role this year. She makes it a point to include speakers from different industries, interests and backgrounds to share their views at panel discussions.
“Being diverse is about hearing the different views that people have,” she explains. “Having a team made up of different people can also mean the difference in a highly competitive industry, especially as clients themselves are getting increasingly diverse.” She adds: “Including different ideas and opinions while being united in your goals make better teams. And better teams produce better results!”