Simon Baker is CEO and managing director of REA Group, a global online real estate advertising company based in Melbourne, Australia.

The REA Group has operations in 12 countries, publishes 19 Web sites and eight print publications.

Prior to joining, Baker was chief business development officer at News Interactive, chief technology officer in a U.S. start-up and spent five years with McKinsey & Co., providing strategic and organizational advice to senior management at major Australian companies.

Baker will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008.

He answered a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2008?

I see lots of varied performance around the world for real estate. In some markets, such as the U.K. and the U.S., it is going to be very tough driven by the subprime crisis and the U.S. potentially slipping into recession. In other markets, such as Australia, I think it will be down a little but nowhere near as much as in the U.K. and U.S. While in others, like Dubai and Hong Kong, I think they will continue to be buoyant driven by stronger new world economies.

What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?

Work on developing your USP — unique selling points — and then market these to your target customer base using the cheapest and most effective advertising channels — the Internet. I would also look beyond your local market and see if you can build a brand, at low cost, in other relevant markets — e.g., internationally.

What was your first job?

Sales and marketing of PCs and networks for IBM.

What made you join your current company?

The opportunity to run an online real estate company at an early stage of its life in the extremely exciting Internet market.

What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?

The biggest challenge is managing the rapid growth of the business from 30 people in two offices in Australia only to more than 700 people in 20 offices in 12 countries — all in five years.

If you had one thing to do over again in your life, what would it be?

Spend less time worrying about the little things.

What style of home do you live in and when did you buy it?

An apartment that I bought five years ago.

What worries keep you awake at night?

None — life is all about having fun.

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

That a 4-year-old doesn’t always understand the concept of time zones or daddy traveling.

What would your second career choice be?

A chef or an antique-map dealer.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Indy music like Barenaked Ladies.

Who is your hero?

My dad.

Hear Baker speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. The conference program and registration are available online via the Connect Web site.

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