When Joyce Paron, Canadian president of Exit Realty Corp. International, joined the company 23 years ago, the real estate market was coming off a recession. Exit Realty was a year into its Canadian operations when founder Steve Morris invited Paron to join the company.
“I was an entrepreneur at the time,” she says, so she welcomed Morris’ invitation to purchase a “district” or a geographical area in Southern Ontario with the goal to sell franchises and manage the area.
“Working in a head office wasn’t really on my radar,” she says. Yet within three years, Paron accepted Morris’ second offer to serve as vice president of the company. The hook for her was the Exit Formula which, she says, has “changed real estate into an empathy-oriented profession where agents have a vested interest in each other.”
Exit Realty is a company that agents join by invitation only. Its formula is based on the foundation of “a financial remuneration system that flows through head office to pay out single-level residuals that make it legal across North America,” says Paron. The formula functions much like a referral system where an Exit agent can financially benefit by introducing other agents to the company. To see the Exit Formula at work, consider the following example:
Mary is a salesperson with Exit Realty. She introduces John, a salesperson with another company, to her broker and he is hired. This is a process known as “sponsoring” at Exit.
As a thank you for helping to grow the company, Exit Realty pays Mary a bonus equivalent to 10 per cent of the gross commission of the transactions John closes, up to a maximum of $10,000 per year. This continues for every year they remain with the company and John closes deals. For Mary, this is a single-level residual income over and above the commission she earns. It is not subtracted from John’s commission.
If Mary decides to take a break from selling real estate or retires, her 10-per-cent sponsoring bonuses convert to seven-per-cent retirement residuals. Even though retired, Mary can continue to sponsor people anywhere there is an Exit office in the U.S. and Canada. If Mary passes away, her 10-per-cent sponsoring bonuses or seven-per-cent retirement residuals convert to five-per-cent beneficiary benefits, providing added security for her loved ones who are left behind.
“Traditional real estate has always been ego oriented. It’s all about me. Don’t look at what I’m doing and don’t look at my customers and who I’m dealing with. Whereas now we have people working arm in arm to help each other and lift each other up,” says Paron.
In an industry where real estate professionals cannot rely on pensions, the Exit Formula solved three problems: that of agents being only as good as their last transaction, that of recruiting and retention and that of mentoring – a practice that Paron says has been lost in the business.
Since its inception, Exit Realty has paid its agents almost half a billion dollars in single-level residuals, she says.
With No. 1 market share in the Atlantic Provinces, the company has now set its sights squarely on solidifying their position in Ontario. So far, they have sold license rights for the territories of Northern Ontario, Southwestern Ontario and Eastern Ontario to what the company calls “regional owners”. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is the last piece of the puzzle. In December, the company appointed Marie Kozak as regional director for GTA in December 2019. Kozak will be spearheading the sale of 25 franchises in the GTA, thus completing the puzzle. Last year also saw the company close 15.2 transactions per agent, on average.
“Our goal is to have 340 franchises in prosperity across Canada and 18,000 real estate professionals,” says Paron.
During its growth spurt, it is imperative for the company, says Paron, to seek out the best leadership for their franchises. “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” she philosophises while quoting author John Maxwell. Exit’s focus is to arm its selection criteria with rigour – those invited to head operations in the GTA would have demonstrable skills in leadership and mentoring.
Exit Realty seems to have set the bar in mindfully seeking parity within their leadership ranks. The company’s executive team consists of women in both CEO and COO positions. “That’s just the kind of person Steve Morris is. We attract who we are,” says Paron.
When she joined Exit Realty, it was just as challenging for women to be in leadership roles in real estate as it was in any other industry. Since then, while the needle has moved slowly but surely for female agents in North American real estate, the leadership glass ceiling is yet to be broken in brokerages.
But the biggest challenge, she says, was within herself. Knowing what she wanted and staying focussed on it to the exclusion of everything else was the biggest challenge for her as a female leader in the late ’90s. It helped that she came from a family where her father encouraged her and her sisters to pursue their dreams.
“We point to the outside world and we say, well, it’s male dominated and we put labels on it of why it’s harder,” she says. But the key is “to know what we want to do with our lives.”
For Paron, the passion for leadership was ignited when she saw Morris’ vision at work and how it benefitted Exit agents and their families. “And the more you get into what you want, how it looks and how it feels in that vision, you start imagining yourself going there. The vision percolates your creativity,” she says.