21 December

James Sialepis and his 20 years at Meriton

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WHEN James Sialepis first met Harry Triguboff in 1996 he was a young 20-year-old university student keen to capitalise on his land economics degree.

He soon found out that there was no ‘fluff’ when dealing with the founder and owner of Meriton, Australia’s biggest apartment developer.

“When I first met Harry I was greeted with a very polite hello, how are you, and then it was straight down to business.

“The questions that were directed to me were to the point and the answers needed to be accurate and precise.”

Twenty years on and James well and truly has mastered the no-fluff art of getting straight down to business and has become one of three directors at Meriton, a $10 billion business.

James, National Construction Director David Cremona, and Meriton Serviced Apartments national manager Matthew Thomas are Mr Triguboff’s right-hand people and they are likely to steer the ship when the day comes that the 83-year-old property veteran’s no longer in the wheelhouse.

James says Meriton has gone through a remarkable transformation during his time with the group.

“Meriton is a business that is ever-progressing – on the front foot, acutely aware of market trends and what buyers want, financially ultra-strong, and in a position to deliver all the time.”

James says that when he started at Meriton the focus was purely on delivering quality apartment developments that were affordable.

“Today our development site selection parameters are much broader, due to the three core businesses Meriton is involved in. We target sites that enable us to create communities within areas that cater for the demands of not only our clients but also the immediate area. The company’s success over 50 years has given us enormous freedom to pursue suitable opportunities that accord with the Meriton vision.”

“There is a much higher expectation on the quality and amenity that buyers demand, and our responsibility moving forward is to cater for these expectations. Developments that combine residential with retail precincts, childcare centres, open parklands, resort-like lifestyle options are top of the priority list.”

The Sialepis career at Meriton started in sales, or what James calls ‘the frontline’.

“If I had my time again, I wouldn’t change a thing

“In sales you get to hear what people want and do your level best to accommodate them. You work on being resilient, patient and innovative in order to achieve your goals.

“At the end of the day, they are the buyers and they are the ones that will push a business like Meriton forward.”

James says Meriton has advanced despite difficulty or opposition, to the point that it is almost unrecognisable as the company he joined in 1996.

“Harry has the biggest serviced apartment business in the country and he’s holding more rental apartments than any other Australian landlord.

“We have enough land to keep building for another 10 years.”

James says Meriton has diversified to the point that it has huge income streams, including rents from shopping and childcare centres.

“Today Meriton is sitting pretty when it comes to riding out downturns and capitalising on booms.”

And what has James learned in 20 years at Meriton?

“You can’t buy time!”

“Harry’s very direct, he knows what he wants, and he expects perfection. He expects those who work with him to deliver.

“In return, he gives you something that money can’t buy — immense loyalty.”

“Meriton has changed my life. It gave me an opportunity at a young age to take on responsibility, work in a team, gain valuable experience, make key decisions and be accountable, and for a young person that breeds confidence.

When working for Harry you need confidence. You quickly learn that time is something that can’t be bought, therefore speed and accuracy in decision-making is so crucial. You learn to be lean, to cut through red tape and find alternative solutions with your co-workers.”

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