Shami Sandhu is president and regional director of Realty ONE Group of Western Canada.
What is the Realty ONE Group and what do you do?
Sandhu: Realty ONE Group is a full-service lifestyle real estate brand that has experienced rapid growth since Kuba Jewgieniew started the company in 2005.
Unlike existing traditional models, we don’t focus on ways to increase our brand exposure. Our you-first focus directs our efforts to serve our agents with the best technology, training and support at a reasonable cost. We’re known as the ‘unbrokerage.’
Being a relatively new company that is family-owned, we have the ability to quickly embrace new technologies and business practices without having to scrap legacy systems that we may have otherwise invested millions of dollars in. This is a huge competitive advantage for us, especially as we start to expand internationally. Business practices and regulatory requirements are quite different between Canada and the U.S.
Our president, Vinnie Tracey, leads our organization and was previously with RE/MAX for over 40 years and retired as their president. His experience with global franchise expansion has been a huge source of support for myself as I help them expand in this region. He was there during the early years of their growth into Canada.
As the president and regional director for our Western Canada expansion, I’m an ambassador for the organization and the first line of support for our broker/owners. I’m here to help with the initial consultation, screening, and ongoing support for new franchisees as they open their offices and every day thereafter.
Where do you operate today and what are the plans for the company’s reach in the coming years?
Sandhu: With the amazing response we received from day one, we’ve already awarded our first few franchises in Alberta. We’re looking for franchisees between Manitoba and B.C. that have independent brokerages, run successful teams, or individuals who reflect the core beliefs of our company.
Our proven model is ideal for both large markets and for the many small towns that are an important part of this region.
“We will grow with the right people.” That was something that Vinnie said to me on my first trip to the head office in California. We’re not in a rush to open locations with the wrong people. We will limit the number of offices that will be opening in each market.
In the last 13 months, we’ve sold over 100 franchises as an organization. Entrepreneur Magazine recently acknowledged us as the fastest growing real estate brokerage franchise in the U.S. A big fallacy that I address on a regular basis are statements like, “But it’s easier to grow in the U.S.” The truth is quite the opposite. Our offices are faced with much more competition from many franchised real estate companies than we have in Canada – and yet we are kicking butt.
Can you explain how your corporate culture is different than other brokerages?
Sandhu: Basketball coach Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” We understand that each agent must take responsibility for their business. But if we create an environment where they can connect, learn and share, then we have a group of professionals who can do just about anything.
This key difference between our company and the traditional brokerage model, of having that amazing environment for our agents to work and thrive in, is very important to real estate agents today. Our ‘Coolture’ (cool culture) has driven the method of how we deliver our programs and services.
Our branding and messaging are far from timid and corporate. Our office designs look more like you have walked into a tech company or coffee shop. With an open and inviting office space, we’ve proven that this creates an environment for collaboration and camaraderie. Traditional brokerages focus on having many private offices that hinders the ability for agents to connect and learn from one another and build great professional relationships.
Can you explain your philosophy around collaboration and working together, and the One Café concept?
Sandhu: The One Café is just one example of what we have done to support our Coolture. When you walk into a local coffee shop, you’ll notice that a sense of community exists between the regulars and even the staff. It’s a comfortable place to go to work or meet friends and colleagues. It allows for the exchange of ideas and conversation in a non-competitive environment. For this reason, we find that having a One Café as a key element in each of our offices is an important part of our Coolture.
We’re a group of passionate people who are working together to build a real estate office, become successful agents, and help people plant roots in the perfect home. We all share the drive to achieve and be extraordinary.
What do you think Canadian consumers are looking for from the real estate industry when it comes to service?
Sandhu: Realty ONE Group understands that focusing on what our agents need is the only way to take care of them. We aren’t looking to just do one or two things differently from other traditional companies just to say we’re different. We’re constantly looking at our core business model, programs and services, and ensuring that they’re relevant and meet the needs of our agents and brokers. This will ultimately benefit the consumer.
We truly believe spending millions on TV, radio and billboard ads don’t benefit the consumer. It only serves the brand. Canadian consumers are looking for agents who are equipped with the best training and technology tools. No one else does both of these as well as we do.
The big companies haven’t embraced the use of e-signature programs for their agents. By supporting our agents, they will in turn do a better job and more efficiently for their clients.
We recently launched our ONE Home Warranty program offered through our partner Universal Blanket Warranty Program. This not only will help sellers sell their home but it will help home buyers with a peace of mind knowing that they’re protected from major heating/cooling systems, underground service lines, appliances, and so much more. No other company provides a program like this.
Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary. He writes for Calgary’s Business.