Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
Ralph Norris, one of Australia's most influential people, shares 40 minutes with SA's leading real estate icon Anthony Toop in an access all areas interview about his career, the economy, customer service and what we can expect next"

When it comes down to it, it's all about the people you invite into your business; the culture they help create, the leadership qualities they hold and ultimately, the customer service experience they offer to your clients. According to Ralph Norris, the right people is all you need.

"I'm a great believer that business is just about people,"said Mr Norris. "The way they carry out their work, the way they interact with their customers."

When Anthony Toop - Managing Director of Toop & Toop Real Estate - asked about how Commonwealth Bank reformed, Mr Norris proudly exclaims how his team has achieved that turnaround seen today. "I've been really delighted to see how our people have reacted, how we've gone out to support our customers. The result of that is that the last four years we've won Banker of the Year awards, two of those have been back to back. We won the award last year for Best Customer Service Organisation in Australia for large organisations."

Two weeks ago, Australian Market Research named the Commonwealth Bank Best Customer Service bank in Australia, "we've won accolades both Nationally and Internationally,"said Mr Norris, "and at the same time we've seen a significant improvement in our financial performance."

Mr Norris' theory: get the people right and the culture right in order to provide the best customer service possible and in turn, the business will financially improve.

"It just goes to prove that if you invest in people, (and) you make sure that people feel valued, they'll do the right thing and then you'll simply find that you become more successful financially."

"The first thing you have to do is get strong people engagement and when you get people engagement, you then find you tend to get good customer service engagement,"Mr Norris said. "Customers come to realise that the organisation is very much changing."

"So therefore, if you don't get the culture correct - one that isn't vibrant, a culture that people don't feel proud of - then you're not going to be successful with your customers."

As a CEO or an MD, how did you change the culture?

"It's hard work and it doesn't come easy," said Mr Norris. "What it means is that the senior management of the organisation have to walk the talk - you can't delegate," said Mr Norris.

"You've actually got to get in there, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Certainly that means you've got to have processes, frameworks, measurement systems, to make sure you're achieving the outcomes that you want."

"You don't want to make it too complicated, but you want to make sure that people understand that it's a real focus on it, and the best way that I've been able to do that is to use our CBA TV channels, that we use throughout the organisation - alike Toop.TV!"

"I also use email. So every week I'll send to every staff member an email message and in that email message I will call out one of the great customer service highlights that I've seen during that previous week, so people will see their name being mentioned and so that builds a very strong culture within the organisation so that people know there's real recognition here."

Reward programs are also high on Mr Norris' list, "calling them (the employee) out and making sure they know that these things don't go unnoticed."

"Finding the right sort of people," is imperative, says Mr Norris.

"People that have got influencing skills, people that are talented in their own right, but you're looking for people that have got leadership skills. They're not just good technically, they're actually very good at influencing and encouraging people and I think that's been a real critical factor at Commonwealth Bank."

Around your family table, considering the market now, what would you advise people to do?

"What I would always recommend to people is to always act with prudence. Look at your situation: what can you appropriately afford? If you need to move, then get good advice. People shouldn't be fearful of making decisions where they've got a good job, good income, they've got the capacity to borrow, they've got the appropriate level of equity in a property."

"The important thing to realise is that if you're buying and selling in a market: if the market's gone down 10%, then you're getting 10% less - theoretically - for what you're selling, and you're paying 10% less than for what you're buying."

"I think the issue here is that if people are buying and selling on the market, if they're getting what "is" the current market, and they're buying on that same market, then they shouldn't have a concern," Mr Norris said.

"Australia has actually got the best terms of trade that we've (Australia) has had in its history, its currency has appreciated because of the strength of its economy,"said Mr Norris.

"Good quality property always sells", said Mr Norris, "and that goes pretty much globally."

Mr Toop was immensely impressed with Mr Norris' theories and approaches, announcing on Toop & Toop's live real estate segment: "I declare I have found a new mentor!"

"His turnaround of the Auckland Savings Bank, his turn around of New Zealand Air, and then now of the Commonwealth Bank are well documented if you Google him," said Mr Toop. "This incredible guy has shared his approach to turning big businesses around from losses to massive profits, and he shared his methodology in this interview."

"Ralph has a simple and amazing approach to business...and I love and totally agree with his approach."

Mr Toop assures he will be taking on Mr Norris' advice and implementing these strategies into the culture at Toop & Toop.

Watch the entire interview - including Ralph's personal recount of his career and achievements - at, or simply click on the "video" link attached at the bottom of this PDF.

File Library

Contact Profile

Toop Real Estate Group

South Australia’s largest independent residential real estate agency and the most highly awarded in the nation was founded by Anthony Toop. It has become a national icon in marketing and selling in the residential real estate industry having won National Real Estate Agency of the Year in 2007 and is the only real estate agency in the industry’s REISA Hall of Fame. Toop&Toop is also the only real estate agency in the Family Business Association Hall of Fame as an iconic business in South Australia. Founded by Anthony in 1985 has won virtually every major state and national business award since 1993 - and has received recognition both nationally and internationally for achievements in business excellence. In April 2009 Anthony was recognized nationally by the Real Estate Institute of Australia by receiving the nations “Community Service Award” for work done with charities and with the Community. He also received the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) Long Life Leadership regional recognition in December 2008 the “Legacy Honour 2008”.

Anthony Toop
P: 08 8266 8887


real estate Ralph Norris



More Formats

View QR Code