In the very male-dominated world of real estate, Sara Grech’s business is somewhat unique in Malta. But what’s even more interesting is that it’s pure coincidence that led to her involvement in the sector.
“I have been passionate about hospitality management for as long as I can remember, and was studying that and economics in the United States at the University of San Francisco,” she recalls. “Then my mother was taken ill with thrombosis of the eye, and my dad called us all back to Malta, and I ended up spending a few months here. During that time my dad – who was an estate agent himself – suggested I give property a try and I instantly fell in love with it, so much so that I never looked back!”
A few years later, when Sara’s dad opted to pass on his business to his children, Sara was the only girl (in a family of three girls and two boys) who was interested in getting involved – but her brothers weren’t keen on her involvement because she was a woman. “So, I decided to go off and do it myself,” she laughs. “They thought I was crazy. They told me it was a man’s industry, that nobody would take me seriously, and that I would soon get bored of it all, get married and have children instead. But I was passionate about it and wouldn’t give up.”
That said, it was no easy journey for Sara. She was left out on a limb and started up with no money whatsoever, before finally managing to secure a Lm5,000 (€12,000) overdraft to start her company. “When I registered the business I didn’t even think about the brand, I just decided to call it Sara Grech on a whim. It took off almost immediately, and the brand itself was such a success that, when they met me, people couldn’t believe that I was the person behind it all. That used to make me laugh.”
When it came to building her company from the ground up, Sara says she was most inspired by her team. “I love watching people grow,” she shares. “I am a very patient person and always feel responsible for those around me; I want them to be successful. Everything I have ever wanted to achieve was for other people’s success, which, thankfully, has facilitated my own success. I have no ego – I don’t need it, that’s not how I thrive.”
As CEO, Sara says her key focus now is the future, and making sure that she is planning effectively for it, including handing things down to her children in the years to come. “My role involves a lot of planning and a lot of thinking,” she says. “When I think of a CEO, I think of someone who has to know everyone on their team and understand them. It is the CEO’s job to identify when things are going wrong and how to fix them for the future. To me, it’s all about the future.”
In fact, Sara doesn’t sell property any more, but instead invests all her energy in developing her team and understanding her clients. “I am in the people business,” she says. “Meeting them, talking to them, learning about them. That’s all that it comes down to these days, and I love it.”
As for the challenges facing her sector, Sara says that it’s mostly a lack of professionalism that riles her. “As an industry there is a major lack of integrity and respect out there,” she says, “which gives the whole market a bad reputation. I have always built my business on strong values and have never forgotten them – respect for our buyers, respect for our sellers, and respect for our team. The lack of integrity that so many businesses have in this sphere really annoys me. I do believe we operate differently, with the desire to please all our stakeholders today so that they will return to us tomorrow. To us it’s not a short-term interaction, but an investment in our future.”
Meanwhile Sara says she is now as focused on the business as she is on the other parts of her life – and enjoyment certainly factors into that. “I have never gone to work to earn money, but because I loved it and wanted to accomplish something,” she says. “I hope that that is how I will be remembered: as having made people happy – whether by giving them an exciting career, or selling them the house of their dreams. I hope to have made other people as happy as this career has made me.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.