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Rural women taking the bull by the horns

25-Feb-2020 12:43:57

Rural Women New Zealand national president Fiona Gower was once asked why rural women were doing so well in leadership roles. Her response, their ability to multi-task. Often living in isolated locations, rural women have always had to be resourceful. "We're not just tea and scones", says Fiona.

Suzanne Cottle Rural and Lifestyle Specialist Levin 4 - alt

Pictured: Suzanne Cottle, Lifestyle and Rural Specialist

Harcourts Rural and Lifestyle Specialist, Suzanne Cottle, knows firsthand what it feels like to be a rural woman and have your abilities underestimated. The impetus for her to learn about rural real estate came over 20 years ago when Suzanne and her husband tried to sell their farm.

"The agents were shockers", recalls Suzanne. "Men tend to talk to the farmer, not the farmer's wife. They don't understand that it's the women that do a lot of the paperwork and manage the finances." Suzanne remembers answering the phone and having the real estate agent ask to speak to her husband. "When they came by the house, they'd expect me to make tea instead of including me in the process."

It was that sort of behaviour that inspired her to do her real estate papers so she wouldn't be on the back foot in the future. After 17 years of being a nurse, Suzanne did her real estate training and set up the rural division at another real estate brand before being approached to start up a rural team at Harcourts Levin.

"I was the first woman in New Zealand to sell rural property for Harcourts", says Suzanne. "By my third year, I was the top rural sales consultant in the country." The secret to her success says Suzanne was her approach, which was completely different from her male colleagues. Suzanne was a pioneer when it came to recognising that women in farming are more than just farmers' wives.

Fiona Gower agrees that rural woman have come a long way. "We don't like to be called farmers' wives these days. It's one of those things that have gone by the by because it's a farming partnership."

Rural women wear many hats - from farm work, to dealing with finances, to helping the children with their homework- so Suzanne tailors her approach to their needs. "If my vendors are having an open home, I know the woman will be stressed about keeping the house tidy, so I'll tell the children I'll leave them a gift under their pillows if they clean their rooms up for mum. All it takes is a packet of lollies and it works a charm." 

Suzanne gives another example of how the gas bottles were missing when a family moved into a property she'd sold to them. "I brought two of my gas bottles from home over so that they could cook and have hot water until they could get new bottles sorted. I just try to make the process as stress-free as possible."

However, it's not about sugar coating things. Suzanne says that when you're selling a farm you have to be upfront about presentation and not be afraid to tell the owners if something needs a tidy up. "Farmers appreciate honesty and someone who gets straight to the point", she says.

Being a farmer's wife taught Suzanne how to multi-task, be resourceful and tell it like it is, three reasons she's so successful in rural real estate and every other project she takes on. "I raised four children, I have seven grandchildren, I run a bed and breakfast, I've just sold a gym I owned for 16 years and I ranked third in New Zealand last year in sales of rural and lifestyle properties", says Suzanne.

"It's all about putting yourself in the other person's shoes and thinking outside of the square."

This article is featured in Harcourts' Lifestyle & Rural Property Focus Newsletter Issue 1, 2020.

Topics: Rural, Advice, Rural market, Lifestyle and Rural Property Focus