Perth-based developer Paul Blackburne has ranked amongst the top of Australia’s Young Rich List, built a $500m development empire and steered the ship on numerous award winning projects; however these are just the marks of a man whose primary aspiration is to create positivity and change in the world through the realm of property.
Blackburne started his own business in 2003 and by his own admission promised he wouldn’t become brainwashed by corporate culture, instead the ambition was to generate wealth and influence for the purpose of giving back.
“I gave myself 10 years before I said I would start giving back. At the 10 year mark in 2013 I began getting more involved in a number of causes that I believed in.
The primary one was Cambodia and the Child Protection Unit, a joint initiative between the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) and the Cambodian National Police to bring child abusers to justice and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
“The team up in Cambodia have built a great operation that has made a significant contribution towards the welfare of children in this poverty stricken country.” says Blackburne.
As a businessman, Blackburne has established himself as one of Perth’s leading apartment developers, forging a company that both develops and encompasses other integrated services including property management, strata management and mortgage broking.
With this unique balance of business and philanthropy, The Urban Developer spoke with Blackburne on opportunity, leadership and what inspires him.
What is your take on the current state of the Perth market? Where are the challenges and opportunities for developers?
We have recently started three major projects and have two more starting construction in the next few months.
Whilst the general market is at the bottom of the property cycle we are finding that our projects are selling well. Good projects that are well designed and well priced will always sell in any market.
There is a long term structural undersupply of apartments in Perth and once confidence returns we will see a significant turnaround.
In recent months we have had record sales and one project sold half before the display centre finished. The buyers are mostly local owner occupiers and there are very few overseas buyers so we think it is the strongest “real” market is Australia.
Where do you currently see the greatest opportunities for young people in property?
I think there is a massive opportunity in the apartment development sector.
It’s more exciting than land and the percentage of people living in apartments will roughly double over the next 30-40 years.
You really get to flex your creativity and develop great looking buildings that truly change people’s lives, so it’s a very satisfying area of property to be involved in.
Whilst on young people, do you think the property industry is changing due to the growing influence of millennials?
I think they have made some really positive changes within the industry.
Millennials are often the ones vocally pointing out to management where an injustice sits and they are often the ones pushing for a greater work-life balance. This is great as it’s a constant reminder to the older generation that there’s more to life than work.
What qualities do you think makes a great leader?
I think a great leader takes most of the blame when things go wrong and gives most of the credit to others when things go right.
They have a clear vision for the future and most importantly knows how to recruit and train the people required to achieve that vision.
They also see themselves as there to help their staff and not there to “manage” or “instruct”. Understanding people and actively wanting to help them do the best they can is a sign of a great leader.
A great leader is also driven by a passion for what they do and not just money and power.
Have you found that philanthropy has made you a better businessman and business made you a better philanthropist?
The money we have to give away comes from the hard work by all our staff so we are all philanthropists. It’s not just me.
Giving money away to help others has certainly been great for me and my business and it provides strong incentive to continually grow and improve our business.
By helping others I think we become more grounded which translates into better staff management and better customer outcomes. It’s a key part of our culture and I find it very satisfying.
What other charitable endeavours have aided in inspiring your philanthropic mindset?
I have seen a number of successful business people commit to giving away half or all of their money in their older years. It’s something I hope to do as I move into the last half of my life.
The Child Protection Unit in Cambodia was a great project and it has been great to see it develop and grow. The team in Cambodia have done a fantastic job and we are now hoping to transition more of our work to the Cambodian government. We filled an essential gap for many years.
Is there a quote that’s shaped the way you think?
There is a saying, “The wise man is one who, knows, what he does not know” by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.
I try to always remind myself that the way I see something may not be the best way to see things and I try to discuss and debate everything to ensure we are as close to the truth as possible.
As a younger Managing Director of a large company I think it’s important to remind myself how much more I have to learn.
Three Projects Developed By Blackburne
Location: Swanbourne, Perth
Status: Construction Completed
Awards: Winner: UDIA (WA) High Density Development 2016 & Finalist: UDIA National High Density Development 2017
Location: Rockingham, Perth
Status: Selling stage 2
Location: Perth CBD
Apartments: 130 with 3 commercial tenancies
Status: Under construction with completion late 2017