Domain CEO Jason Pellegrino shares his transformation tips


SUCCESSFUL THINKING – Domain Property Group CEO Jason Pellegrino speaks exclusively to Forbes Australia about his role in transforming one of Australia’s largest digital property platforms and his unique management style.
Domain Group CEO Jason Pellegrino shares his tips on digital transformation | Source: supplied

Jason Pellegrino is the Chief Executive and Managing Director of one of Australia’s largest online property and services platforms, Domain Group. He joined the group in 2018, 10 months after it had separated from its original owner, Fairfax (now Nine), and had listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

Before joining Domain, Pellegrino worked for Google Australia and New Zealand for a decade, eventually becoming Managing Director of the search engine. The pivotal changes to the internet and mobile technology during that time helped to form his strong views on adaptability and business success. 

“I had the luxury of just seeing this extraordinary wave of the internet sort of hitting Web One and disrupting and challenging and freeing up consumers.

Part of Pellegrino’s job includes the transformation of the company – which began as a digitised classified version of Fairfax’s print classifieds – from a part-digital, part-print company with several legacy products, to an entirely online marketplace and services provider. It’s a gradual process, but significantly reducing the company’s print listings, selling its poorly performing connections and utilities business, and focusing on high-quality digital services, has slowly transformed the company.

What was a skill that you had to learn quickly when you took over as CEO of Domain?

I think in any fast-scaling, fast-growing business, the single biggest skill that anyone needs to get to is learning how to leverage and scale other people. The faster business grows or the more it changes, the less effective you’re going to be running fast on a treadmill. The more effective [way] is you’re going to be encouraging others to run faster on that treadmill.

You must have had a sheer belief that this online business would work. What gave you the belief in the company?

I have an unwavering belief in the positive disruption that the internet, mobile, and now artificial intelligence is creating and this next wave of industrial revolution. While there are many challenges out there…it’s overwhelmingly positive, but the winner is going to be the consumer. The customer will decide the winners and the losers rather than the incumbents. My unwavering, solid belief is….how do we build a business proposition to deliver the customer needs rather than trying to move or manage the customer back to our legacy business?

[I ask] is that a trend or does something that comes along fundamentally change the game either materially improve a customer outcome, reduce the customer’s cost or friction, or radically improve some element whether it’s discovery, price discovery, or transparency? It goes back to the first question and how do we adopt and build a business around what the customers want and where they’re going with new technology.

Is there anything in your daily routine that you can attribute to keeping you sharp, motivated, and sane?

I think you’re running on the maybe misguided assumption that I am sane! I’ve got four kids all still at school, a pretty busy work life, and two dogs! I actually love chaos and sensory input, but I think what does keep me sane is I am quite disciplined at getting an hour or two hours to myself a day, depending on what time it is, to exercise and focus. Throughout the week it might be cycling for a couple of hours or even spending 30 minutes by myself having a coffee or breakfast at a café and collecting my thoughts. That’s my kind of meditation. What I think keeps you sane is reserving a piece of your life for yourself.

Do you think there is a characteristic of yourself that is underrated by others?

Not my singing ability, I can tell you that! I think that characteristic is probably resilience. I am a very collaborative, open person. I pretty much give open access to every employee at Domain. I think that [approach] can be interpreted as [me] being a bit of a pushover and… I’m not, I can be pretty tough when I need to be. The centre of my authentic leadership is being collaborative and open and approachable…but there are times when I need to be directive and tough and make decisions.

If I gave you $10,000 to invest for say, a niece or a nephew, where would you put the money?

This is the easiest question for me. I would invest in the education that sits behind that niece or nephew. Education is the only gift that you can give to someone that can never be taken away. The largest ROI that you can make from any investment…is an investment in education. I’ve backed that up with my involvement with Plan International. I’m a member of that board and Plan has a focus on girls’ education because it is one of the single biggest “unlocks” around inequity and development globally.

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