Spending months criss-crossing the country was among the first items on the agenda for Marvin Alexander of Newmarket, Ont., who as Keller Williams Realty’s newly appointed director of Canadian operations will lead a growing team of more than 2,400 associates in two dozen offices across Canada.

By all accounts, this kind of share-the-vision-tour is a time-tested Keller Williams strategy. The idea is that Alexander’s trips across Canada visiting the company’s local leadership teams and associates will help build awareness, share best practices and promote expansion.

Seems like a good plan, although it certainly added an element of challenge to the process of setting up a REM interview with Alexander via his public relations rep. (“He’s travelling right now….”)

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Such is life. Alexander, who is president/owner of Keller Williams Realty Centres in Ontario, last year was Canada’s No. 1 agent by individual ends, according to the independent American company Real Trends.

Now he has a mission. His plan as the new director of operations in Canada involves “unifying the company from coast to coast” and ensuring that Keller Williams’ vision is spread to all associates, he says. But first, the vision had to be crystal clear to Alexander.

“Part of my agreement to take on this role was predicated on the company having a sound plan,” he says.

It does – a very ambitious one. For starters, Keller Williams, which is currently in a world-wide expansion mode, is gearing up to double in size in Canada within two years and more than quadruple in five years. This growth is expected to come both from the opening of new offices coast to coast and the expansion of existing ones.

The “big three” focus areas for expansion in Canada will be Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, Alexander says. Last year, Keller Williams Canada associates handled more than 21,000 transactions and closed more than $8 billion in sales, the company’s stats show.

“We have an army of people out there and they are coming to me,” says Alexander. “We have had a great quantity of interest and a great quality of interest… Since June I’ve already had over 80 franchise inquiries in Canada.”

That’s a lot. In Alexander’s opinion, Keller Williams “is actually under developed in Canada… the best-kept secret in Canadian real estate.”

Another reason Keller Williams is able to attract franchisees and expand in Canada and elsewhere falls somewhere in the spectrum of “build it and they will come” (the famous line from the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams).

To put it in Alexander’s words, “The chassis we are built on allows for great results.”

With 125,000 sales reps, Keller Williams is the world’s largest franchise by agent count. It says it achieved historic productivity, profit gains and recruitment with a business model that delivers through profit sharing and a culture of independence and shared decision making that rewards agents as stakeholders.

Alexander, with close to 24 years in real estate, was initially attracted to Keller Williams because the company’s philosophy of “creating an environment that brings out the best in people,” matches his own, he says.

“Keller Williams is a company with a caring culture.”

Alexander joined Keller Williams as a franchisee in 2008, attracted by the company’s “multiple value propositions,” which besides the financial incentive of profit sharing include strong training systems. “We are ranked as the No. 1 company for training in the world,” he says. The company’s technological tools, a revenue-capped model especially appreciated by top producers, residual income opportunities and a culture of good corporate citizenship were also appealing to him.

In particular, Alexander likes that Keller Williams cedes significant decision-making authority to its associates and “is not just a business model based on ‘what’s in it for me.’”

The company has an open book policy and “is probably the only franchise in North America with no debt,” he says. “And we teach our business operators how to do so too. It’s a very sound business model – and very Canadian too, as Canadians are debt adverse.”

Alexander stresses that part of Keller Williams’ mission is to attract the best in the business.

“A Keller Williams franchise is the most difficult to be awarded, I’d say. It needs to be a good fit” and involves a multi-layered screening process for the operating partner, including a behavioural assessment, multiple interviews and several days of research and training at the company’s Austin, Texas, headquarters.

Having a long track record of success before and after joining Keller Williams, Alexander was contacted “by virtually every franchisor in Canada,” when he began to search for new opportunities not long ago. Not bad for a guy who admits that before he got into real estate he attempted to sell his own home privately but failed.

At first the offer from Keller Williams to head up the Canadian division seemed too good to be true, he says.

“I feel honoured to be appointed and I don’t take it lightly,” he says. “I’m excited about solidifying the foundation our operating partners have built… I’m looking forward to growth with great new people and also fostering those we already have.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. This is a fairly lengthy article, and if I was shopping around for a new brokerage I could see some financial benefits, perhaps, but other than that I am not getting what would give me a leg-up at Keller Williams verses another competitor. What is missing here, is why should the real estate consumer want to deal with a Registrant/ REALTOR at Keller Williams verses someone else at another competing brand? The short answer might be because Keller Williams is setting out to attract the best (highest producing) agents through compensation packages etc., but who isn’t? In an age where some of the smaller independent brokerages were able to market homes effectively, why would the consumer care about the expansion plans of Keller Williams — unless, VOW’s (Virtual Organization Websites) get forced upon the industry, as it would take a large brokerage to operate one of these platforms, economically.

    I learned a long time ago that in the real estate vernacular “Advanced Training” meant learning how to prospect for new leads and how one should go about managing their time, so that they could devote the maximum amount of time prospecting for new leads! I was exposed to a video of an American prominent coach, who was so obnoxious I couldn’t help but laugh at him because most Canadians would probably grab him by the arms and the legs and see how far they could toss him out onto the front lawn. Canadian training content is probably a coach who is well mannered enough that most people would let him stay long enough to finish his pitch — assuming it didn’t interfere with supper plans.

    Training that is devoted to prospecting techniques, is training that is devoted to increasing the likelihood of survival and even better a worthwhile career financially, for the Registrant/ REALTOR — its primary focus isn’t giving the consumer a better experience or drawing the real estate consumer to the Registrant/ REALTOR. The beauty of the “discount broker” business model is that it not only eliminates much of the need for prospecting (which is the main impetus for it), it also inherently attempts to give the consumer the impression that there is an obvious value argument for selecting the “discount broker”! Consequently, the modern Brokerage that does not present itself as a “discount broker” needs to consider if the old ways of “advanced training” are really going to cut-it anymore, in the current reality.

    Ultimately, a better real estate industry can only really be achieved by making it a smaller real estate industry and a professional real estate industry. The fact that some people can buy their way into this industry and a market because they have deeper pockets than someone else, generally and fundamentally undermines the goal of competence and ethics as taking precedence over all else. Gimmicks and giveaways, whether they be the free use of a customized moving trailer for a client or anything else are distractions that have no place in a professional industry and they are but obstacles in our path towards the goal of a professional industry, in my opinion. A VOW (Virtual Organization Website) is probably the best current example of how technology that is backed up by money can, not only, buy market share but change the way real estate consumers choose or find a Registrant/ REALTOR.

    I made a reference here on REM recently to an outside article that was written about some consumer experiences with industry members. While the allegations of REALTOR’s attempting to show a FSBO property under false pretenses in that case may or may not have been true, just the fact that a consumer would hold such an impression is unacceptable. I have heard a recent similar such, true, anecdote of an industry member being very unprofessional (aggressive) with a FSBO seller. To avoid these issues it is better that consumers approach us first. In my opinion, “advanced training” needs to focus on raising the level of service provided to real estate consumers – both on the part of the individual Registrant/ REALTOR and in terms of what the brokerage itself contributes. However, when real estate consumers approach us first, it should be for the right reasons: not because of a gimmick or a giveaway or because they just happen to see our face over and over again on the type of website platform that the individual Registrant/ REALTOR could not afford to operate — unless he/ she was Canada’s top agent, but then again, there can only be one: top agent, in Canada!

  2. Respectfully,
    Calgary home owners have lose over $7 Billion in net worth since Dec 2014. The Canadian government will expend $1.2 Billion assisting 25,000 refugees. The combined profits of the big 6 banks in Canada in 2014 will be $10 Billion.

    Sit back and think about the obligation you assume when you decide to sell someone a home. Understand a $400,000 sale in 2015 will cost those buyers over $1,000,000 by the time they sell. Understand choosing the most diligent home inspector may cost you a sale but can save your buyer from paying $40,000 too much for a home.

    Have you received this kind of training. Has your broker ever told you the responsibility you have for your clients and their children ( let that sink in).

    Are you taking the Bank Pre-Approval and walking your clients into homeownership based on what the Bank and CMHC is telling them to buy? Really…. is it 1960 all over again?

    • Ross,

      It’s hard for me to believe that you want people to take you seriously, given your inclinations towards broad generalizations and lack of context. So apparently everyone who bought a home in 2015 will end up having said home cost them: $1,000,000, by the time they sell — in other words, everyone’s circumstances around buying and selling a home are more or less the same? The reader can’t even tell if your huff and puff is: net of purchase price or inclusive of.

      Ross, regarding your following statement: “Understand choosing the most diligent home inspector may cost you a sale but can save your buyer from paying $40,000 too much for a home.” Choosing the right Home Inspector could save a buyer a whole lot more than $40,000, or it might save them a whole lot less, but where do you get these numbers from — do you spin a wheel? Your sentence is also structured to imply that the Registrant or Practitioner chooses the Home Inspector and that they have an inherent “conflict of interests” in that a “diligent” Home Inspector could “cost you [the Registrant] a sale”. Ross, in my opinion your aforesaid statement is disinformation. As a former Registrant Practitioner, you would know very well that a Registrant’s fiduciary duties would prevent them from engaging in such a blatant “conflict of interests”. Furthermore, a diligent Home Inspector is only opening a door for further negotiations around anything that may come up on an Inspection — most reasonable Seller’s will come to the party, and if it means getting something renewed/ replaced for the Buyer’s, why would they refuse a chance to dance that dance?

      Ross, I find it more than a little ironic that you seem to need to elevate yourself above this industry and its members in order to promote what you’re doing now, and that you feel REM is a viable medium, to this end. There’s never really been any indication that consumers take any great interest in REM, Registrant’s aren’t likely to refer to you — that’s what they have a Broker for, and this (REM) is the mostly likely place for you to be scrutinized heavily. Now that you’re using your full name you will be more easily found on a generic web search, of course. I have to tell you that as a business marketing strategy: I find it quite funny!

  3. I am very proud of bringing Keller Williams to Southern Ontario 12 years ago. Over that period of time we have had numerous agents tell us that their brokers said we were a “cult”, “just like Exit Realty”or a “pyramid scheme”. It is a shame that respected Brokers and Owners need to put other companies down, without even doing their own due diligence.. As I have said to every agent that has joined us, what your Broker told you is not true and history will prove that point. The traditional Brokers in our industry off-loaded their training in the 90’s to compete with 95-100% companies like Re/max( where I proudly worked for 12 years before opening KW). In doing so it forced agents to seek external training from the likes of Joe Stumpf, Brian Buffini, Mike Ferry and others. All great trainers that filled the void that was left by those decisions.
    I knew that when we opened and started to grow that our Competitors would begin offering more training for their agents as a way of retaining them. So, if our legacy is that we forced our competitors to start investing and training their agents again( happy to see that your new RAH offices have training rooms), then I am proud of what we have accomplished. If you have a chance to read probably the best Real Estate Business book ever written ” The Millionaire Real Estate Agent’ by Gary Keller( and followed by top agents and teams across Canada whether they are with us or not) you will discover that his focus is on Lead generation, Getting listings and Building a leveraged real estate team. The last time I checked those three issues had no borders.

  4. How do you defend against the reputation of being a cult and the fact that your training is really based on American real estate instead of Canada? I know many people that went to KW because of training and then returned to their former brokerage. Are you planning on improving your training in Canada?

    • Howard, I am not with KW. I have been training real estate agents for 35 years. I teach agents what to say to guide sellers to get faster than average sales and above average selling prices. 60% of my business is Canadian. Technical and legal practices vary from Province to Province and State to State, and obviously from the US and Canada, but actual listing and selling strategies are universal. The biggest difference I have seen between US and Canada is you guys spell cheque funny. Or is it us?

    • Howard, over 3 years ago American Training in the company was a real concern. So KW formed an elite group of Top Realtors, Coaches, Owners and Trainers called “CATTS”. Everyone was Canadian (myself included) and represented different provinces and boards. Our role was to go through all the Training content and courses and edit to Canadian Standards. The results were awesome! We will be launching IGNITE (in house LIVE training) the newest latest version on Jan 11th, 2016 (going to be HUGE) and to ensure the Canadian Content was up to date it was Beta Tested in our Kitchener/Waterloo office this month with success before we are releasing it company wide. We were voted the #1 Training Company and to my knowledge we are the only real estate company worldwide with a dedicated University. Over the past few years we’ve developed an outstanding team of trainers in Canada and Coaches that have really been able to ensure we bring top Canadian experience and content. We’ll always have room for growth and improvement….we’re growing at rapid speeds…it absolutely won’t be perfect because of that….it is though about learning and listening to the agents and making changes like above that are important. Great point and question by you Howard!

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