2022 marked a major milestone year for Dhalia Real Estate, which celebrated its 40th anniversary while making strides to introduce greater industry regulation and launching a brand-new sub-brand through Dhalia CRE.

Alan Grima’s appointment as CEO of Dhalia Real Estate in 2016 should serve as a golden lesson about the priceless value of transferable skills in business. Hailing from a background in IT and software development, he initially joined the agency as CIO back in 2008, when he worked closely with the board of directors on several significant projects that helped the agency continue to live up to its reputation as a truly innovative player in the local market.

Under Alan’s guidance, Dhalia introduced new systems and technologies that saw the agency streamline its processes and retain its market leader status at a time when more and more players were entering the real estate game. The company also became one of the first on the island to harness the outreach possibilities presented by the rise of social media.

Following a changing of the guard, Alan was presented with an opportunity to make a radical switch to take up the reins of the agency.

“The CEO role involves a lot of problem solving and my background in software development has certainly equipped me with the skills to respond quickly to unexpected circumstances and adapt to change. It’s the nature of the job,” Alan explains.

With the benefit of hindsight, Alan’s appointment as CEO proved an inspired decision. Not only did Alan possess a fierce passion for Dhalia’s reputation and legacy, but he also had a track record for capitalising on new trends to help the agency navigate its way through a rapidly changing real estate landscape increasingly defined by digitisation.

Leading a 150-strong team, with outlets spread across the island, certainly means Alan has his work cut out for him. But through his pragmatic and analytical leadership style, where the big picture always meets the little details, Alan has successfully developed and implemented significant changes across all levels of the agency to ensure the brand remains synonymous with quality.

In practical terms this means that, in addition to setting the company’s vision and strategy for the future, he also keeps a hand in the day-to-day operations, communicating with branch managers to follow up on recent wins, new market challenges and emerging area trends. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his IT foundations, Alan has also overseen small but subtle changes across the agency by introducing a greater element of automation in internal processes, thus freeing people up to focus on more important aspects of this people-facing job.

“I would say that, over and above my daily duties, I have two main overarching responsibilities as CEO,” he says. “The first is to continue to foster a culture based on customer obsession and innovation. I believe that our willingness to deliver a property[1]buying experience that goes beyond the ordinary is what gives us an edge over the competition. This couldn’t be more crucial today when most real estate agencies are essentially selling the same product.”

Central to this strategy of strengthening Dhalia’s customer experience is a mission to create solutions for everyday problems that clients face. As one example, with the vast majority of promise of sale signings taking place in Valletta, Alan and his team recognised that many property buyers were facing the inconvenience of having to make their way to the capital during work hours and between other pressing responsibilities. So, to simplify the process on their behalf, the Dhalia team introduced a complimentary taxi service. Clients simply provide their details, and the Dhalia team takes care of all the rest.

“Buying a property, especially when it’s your first home, should be a happy occasion. It shouldn’t be marred by the prospect of traffic and parking headaches. Our taxi service takes away these stresses and ensures clients arrive at their promise of sale signing relaxed and in a good mood. It’s proven to be a very popular initiative that clients love. It’s these kinds of personal touches and practical solutions that set Dhalia apart.”

Picking up on his other core CEO responsibilities, Alan adds that he also feels obligated to be accountable to property buyers: “when clients approach us, they are trusting us with one of the biggest decisions in their lives. That’s why I believe our clients deserve to have access to the best property consultants who can always provide a professional service with reliable advice and accurate information.”

To this end, Alan has worked hard over the past few years to introduce tighter regularisation within the local real estate industry. By ensuring all property consultants are trained and licensed, regularisation would result in a more professional industry with improved quality standards.

Currently Dhalia is the only agency in Malta that is licensed to provide in-house accreditation training. As well as being a mark of quality for the agency among clients, Alan also sees this as a significant benefit for Dhalia’s own agents, one which demonstrates how the agency strives to deliver a company culture that truly supports its people.

“Dhalia sponsors all accreditation and training for our property consultants. We also regularly invite leading property coaches from around the world to share their insights and expertise with our teams. We want to give our people access to the best training and resources, so they feel empowered to carry out their jobs with confidence. It’s our duty to invest in our people and provide them with the tools they need to succeed,” he asserts, before adding that he will continue to advocate for proper enforcement structures to ensure the benefits of regulation have a positive ripple effect across the entire industry.

2022 saw Dhalia celebrate another landmark with the launch of sub-brand Dhalia CRE. Focusing purely on commercial real estate, this niche enterprise is designed to be a one-stop shop to help commercial clients identify the right properties for their unique business requirements and gain access to bespoke investment appraisals, all while enjoying a highly exclusive property-buying experience.

“Over the past few years, Malta has continued to generate interest from emerging industries looking to set up shop here. We wanted to provide investors with a highly specialist CRE service that caters to this sector of the market. We’re always driven by quality at Dhalia. For this reason, we’re also introducing a new accreditation course to train a specialist team of consultants with up-to-date industry knowledge to better guide commercial clients in making informed decisions throughout the purchase process.”

Looking back on his journey so far and reflecting on all the agency has planned for 2023 and beyond, Alan is quietly sanguine about the future of this 40-year-old agency which has stood the test of time, where many others have fallen by the wayside.

“All of our success wouldn’t be possible without our people – board of directors, the people at head office, the management team, and all of our hard-working property consultants. The passion and dedication they pour into Dhalia is the reason why we continue to be a household name that inspires trust,” he concludes.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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