Recently the president and CEO of McDonald’s Restaurants, Don Thompson, admitted his company continues to struggle in the fast food market, saying the corporation hasn’t kept up with the times and that changes are in store for its U.S. restaurants. A week later, social media giant Twitter was a cause for concern for investors, with one analyst, Nate Elliott of Forrester Research Inc. saying, “Twitter simply hasn’t changed much over the past nine months.”
The need for change and innovation wasn’t just on the minds of the behemoths of business in 2014. Earlier in the year, Tom Bosley, president and broker of record, Bosley Real Estate, realized the time was ripe to re-energize his business and refine or change what they’ve done in the past in order to be better and stay ahead of the competition. The third-generation owner of W.H. Bosley & Co. in Toronto, which was founded in 1928, believes in the adage that if you’re not changing or innovating or trying new things, you risk falling behind or even dying.
Bosley, who has been in the real estate business 46 years (and was among a group of industry movers and shakers named by REM as having the biggest impact on Canadian real estate in the last 25 years) gathered his management team together to form a strategic plan that would create a new Bosley Real Estate. They met at regular intervals over four months in the company’s training centre on Toronto’s Merton Street – often working weekends – to analyze what was working and what wasn’t.
“Everything changes but change takes time and there can be some resistance to change. But everyone here agreed it had to happen,” he says. “I fully understand that without salespeople there is no me, and the ability to listen is key.” In a March 1998 interview with REM, Bosley said, “My door and mind are always open to new ideas.”
He and his wife, Ann, who started her real estate career in 1986 and serves as the company’s vice-president, have always made sure they could trust and respect the people around them. Some of those key people were chosen to help “shake up the company.”
Among those team members is Mark McLean, broker/manager.
“There were some clouds on the horizon in the industry so it was the right time to reinvent the company in order for it to thrive and survive for another 85 years,” says McLean, who is also president-elect of Toronto Real Estate Board. Among the issues deemed to be casting a shadow was an ever-growing membership, Competition Bureau issues and changing technologies that could be eroding the traditional, full-service brokerage model.
McLean admits it was an exhausting several months of strategic discussions where the team looked at every aspect of the company’s business model – from commission structures to brand management, technology, marketing and advertising. “The result was a tighter organization,” he says, adding that “everything was torn apart and put back together again.”
When Tom Bosley says “the new becomes the norm and the new normal is very different for the generations who are following us” he is referring to younger professionals joining the industry, as well as a digital world that is having a deep impact on emerging consumers. “When I bought this company in 1985, we had a staff of 60 and the average age was 60,” he says. “In the 1970s and ʼ80s, real estate was a second career for most.” Today, Bosley Real Estate has 230 agents in five offices, including Niagara-on-the-Lake, and more young people are coming out of university and entering the business as a first career choice.
Seven years ago, Bosley’s daughter Christan (who is currently continuing the family business as a broker and sitting on some industry committees) told her father that she had sold her first house in less than two days by using Facebook. The senior Bosley said, “That’s great! What’s Facebook?” It was a watershed moment for the now technologically astute veteran real estate executive, who admits his company had little social media presence even five years ago. “Now we are solid across all platforms.”
To emphasize that point, McLean points to a new full-fledged website that was designed to help agents, especially younger ones, who made it clear they wanted the latest and greatest technology and tools to help them succeed. “The website and app is fully mobile, includes social search and incorporates a lot of our salespeople’s own data and research,” McLean says. “It also includes videos, testimonials and Bluetooth technology. As well, the web designers adapted cloud-based, fully integrated record keeping, data and deal management software allowing agents to process their deals faster and have better access to file history.”
One of the many recent innovations that Tom Bosley is proud of is the formation of Master Mind Sessions where every agent in the company is encouraged to come to the Merton Street head office any Wednesday morning for an hour to discuss anything of importance to them. “Issues are resolved and the ways and means of how we are doing business are discussed in an interactive manner,” says Bosley. “We want our salespeople to know they are not providers of information, they are interpreters of information.”
Bosley, who made changes in his management team following the months-long, internal introspective analysis of his company, says he and his managers and agents are not content with the status quo and he stresses the importance of “constantly improving our service, moving forward and looking at new technologies and new methods of operating.” He adds that it is an amazing time to be in the real estate business but technological advances are merely a tool. He emphasizes that “it is our hard work, ethical behaviour and understanding of market conditions that will remain the deciding factor of our success.”
He reiterates that the “new” Bosley, while shaped by its past, has changed and is looking to the future. The company will improve on what it offers and grow, but it’s not about the number of salespeople or offices that will determine its future success, he says. “We don’t have a product to sell, just a service.”
It’s clear that this forward-looking owner has no interest in becoming the McDonalds of real estate companies. He likes to joke that Bosley Real Estate “always had the sizzle but now we have the steak.”