At the beginning of the pandemic, even before the government lockdown, Alex Ocsai and Gloria Riddall, broker/owners of Royal LePage Meadowtowne Realty in Mississauga, Ont. took action. They closed their offices, banned open houses and ensured an open line of communication with agents and staff, supporting everyone so no one felt alone.
“Acting before being mandated was the best thing we did,” says Ocsai. “We were never mandated to close – we were deemed an essential service, but no one knew what we were in for.”
Through the lockdown, re-opening and a careful return to business, lessons have been learned.
“During the first run, we didn’t know what to expect. During this second run,” he says, “we’re not afraid any more as a company. We know what to do and what not to do.”
Brokers, agents and staff are connected (tech system bugs have been eliminated) and everyone is able to work from home with relative ease. New hires are being given laptops so they are ready to do the same.
Phones throughout the Meadowtowne network (Mississauga, Milton, Georgetown, Acton, Erin and Caledon) are connected in case one office has to close due to infection.
Strict protocols remain in place, including masks and distancing. Ocsai says “there’s hand sanitizer everywhere”. The number of people in the office continues to be limited. It’s not uncommon for a large flex space (a 400-square-foot meeting room) to be used for one-on-one meetings.
Ocsai couldn’t wait for the office to reopen. “We’re social creatures. After working from home for the first 45 days, I was back in the office and looked down the hall. I saw one person.” It was a joyful experience.
However some people are still not comfortable being in the office and that’s okay. Open communication with agents and staff ensure everyone is informed and supportive.
A brokerage survey revealed 95 per cent of respondents scored their brokerage’s handling of the pandemic response as 8/10 or higher and said that they felt supported throughout the lockdown. It’s something Ocsai is proud of because it validates that they are doing the right thing.
Weekly huddles on Zoom continue. Minutes are shared with time-referenced videos so everyone can skip to topics of interest. A popular Thirsty Thursday event, which features experts from a variety of industries, will restart in December.
Zoom allows you to see body language and can prompt a call if the brokers think someone needs extra support, Ocsai says. “We’re trying to be hypersensitive.”
With winter approaching, the biggest focus, Ocsai says, will be how to “continue through the dark time of the season and keep people engaged and talking.”
Plans include virtual meetings and events, as well as solo agent business planning and general business planning. And the brokerage’s charitable efforts will continue. The Mississauga office will lend a hand with a drive-through breakfast fundraising event in support of the local food bank. Agents and staff will hand out 750 breakfasts.
As far as clients are concerned, Ocsai suggests his agents do what they normally do, but to be less intrusive and to contact people with valuable information, or just to ask them if they’re okay. “If they’re not working, ask them to send a resume. You don’t need to solicit right now. Just show people you’re there and that you care.”
The Meadowtowne brokerage has got it together, but not everyone has. Ocsai says competitors are calling and asking for help, and he’s happy to discuss the measure they’ve taken (PPE kits, physical distancing, a brokerage-wide closure, open house bans, non-concurrent appointments, disinfecting of offices, holding Zoom meetings and virtual social events) and developing plans for the future should another closure be required. Ocsai and Riddall constantly monitor the numbers, ready to act accordingly and quickly.
Ocsai says Royal LePage Canada’s support (from the top down) throughout has been and continues to be invaluable. CEO Phil Soper “communicates regularly, impressive for a person in his role,” says Ocsai.