Christine Cowern, a salesperson with Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty in Toronto, puts her team’s business plan together at the end of every year for the following year. She then re-visits it every quarter to adjust as needed and make sure that they’re on track.

Christine Cowern
Christine Cowern

“It’s much more difficult to manage and grow your business without a business plan. If you’re serious about what you do, a business plan is crucial. Not only does it provide greater clarity on different aspects of your business, but it also sets actionable goals and strategies for growth, essentially creating a roadmap for success.”

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Ron Sally
Ron Sally

Ron Sally, a broker at Re/Max Millennium Real Estate in Woodbridge, Ont., has a business plan on steroids. “I don’t create just a business plan anymore. What I create is an annual life plan that has a combination of both personal goals (such as physical, travel, educational, spiritual) and business goals (production, recruitment, training, income).”

Sally says, “I normally create a full plan in the beginning of the year of everything I want to achieve or do. I then split all of them up quarterly. The purpose of your quarterly plan is to drive your annual plan and your long-term strategy forward. I keep updating and re-adjusting the quarterly plans as I move ahead in the year. Life is not straight lined. So much is happening and changing all the time that you have to constantly review your goals weekly, if not daily.”

When constructing a plan, be as detailed as possible. That not only allows you to determine what steps to take to reach your goals, it keeps you focused on results. For example, planning to contact 10 past clients every week is more actionable than planning to spend time each month reaching out to past clients.

Diane Allingham and Jennifer Stewart
Diane Allingham and Jennifer Stewart

Diane Allingham and Jennifer Stewart, brokers with Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa, have been updating and redoing their business plan annually since they became partners 10 years ago.

“We have found a business plan to be vitally important to the growth of our business. It allows us to take stock of what has been and to focus on where we want to go. If nothing else, it facilitates accountability at the end of the year. For us, the goals are important and reviewing at year-end gives us a sense of satisfaction and pride. As lead agents for a team, planning some aspects together really helps to draw everyone together as a more cohesive unit.”

An effective business plan evolves. Keep revising it and adding to it as your career changes. Consider getting input from your broker or someone else you trust for suggestions on making your plan even stronger.

Glenn Wildenmann
Glenn Wildenmann

Glenn Wildenmann, a broker with M Real Estate in Montreal, considers his business plan a living document.

“My business plan is my road map, so a lot of activities/objectives roll over from year to year. I do look at it with fresh eyes about twice a year, once after my busy winter season is coming to a close and again towards the end of fall as I prepare for the year to come.”

Lynne Faucon, broker manager for Coldwell Banker First Ottawa Realty in Ottawa, says, “A good business plan will focus on your personal and professional goals balanced against the reality of your local market conditions. Begin with where you want to have your business be at the end of the year. Start your planning with the end in mind. In preparation, reflect on the current market and where it is going and how it will affect your business. Adjust as needed. Set business and personal goals with rewards. Set short and long-term goals (one, three, five and 10-year). Have a marketing plan and budget. Always monitor and track what you do for effectiveness, cost and your time.”

What do real estate business plans cover? Cowern’s plan includes gross commission and sales volume goals, listing and buyer appointment goals, target markets, marketing initiatives, content creation goals and expense targets. Allingham and Stewart cover sales projections, revenue, expenses, where they want their business to come from, marketing, changes they want to make to their systems and overall growth strategy, plus any other areas they want to improve upon.

Sally includes income goals, recruitment goals, gross commission, appointments, transaction goals and sales volume. “There is so much available online through videos, articles and blogs that you can figure it out on your own if you put a little time into it,” he says.

Wildenmann’s business plan includes his expectations for the coming year for new client acquisition and repeat client retention, marketing, advertising and branding, and an associated budget to keep him on track. He also has a section for analyzing the different markets and neighbourhoods in which he works, as well as what his competitors are up to. “I think a Realtor’s business plan is very personal and can contain anything you need to keep you focused and on target.”

If the thought of crafting a business plan seems daunting, start small. Determine what your main goal is for the year. Then pin down three or four main actions you need to accomplish to reach that goal. Finally, determine the steps you need to take to reach those actions.

Wildenmann says, “Preparation makes execution that much easier. A plan leads to consistency in all aspects of your work. It creates a discipline. When I started, I would have good months and bad months; it became a roller coaster. When I implemented a plan, it removed some of the unknown and made my goals easier to achieve.”


  1. Include this routine in your new year plan:

    If you aren’t the one in your household who is responsible for reviewing all sorts of private paperwork, make it part of your plan to at least take a look at family documents; update what needs updating or check that your spouse or partner has done so.

    Update your WILL. (Do you know that if you marry and have an existing Will, your marriage “negates” your current will? Check with your lawyer or estate planner. Or talk to Barry Fish at Fish Law Associates in Toronto: (905)
    881-1500. They offer to “review” your Will at no cost. You might learn amazing things. I did.

    REM – insurance sales: perhaps put this on your to-do planning list for the new year. Did you ever consider insuring your business team or business partner? Has any broker owner ever insured his top producer?

    Sometimes in real life small business owners insure each other. That’s not abnormal.

    Some real estate agents also sell insurance. As do some lawyers. We never hear much about this. Are lawyers still currently classified as automatically being allowed to trade in real estate? in your trading area? by virtue of they are licenced lawyers? Grandfathered? Does that also apply to their being permitted to sell insurance?

    I want to pose a question because it’s important. Let’s begin with you and your spouse each have a life insurance policy showing each other as beneficiary. Have you ever looked closely at that policy? Is it filed away some place in maybe a bank safe-deposit box? Or in a family safe?

    Did you completely trust the insurance agent who wrote the policy? Were you even present when the final discussion took place? After-all, you trust your spouse, right? If not, you shouldn’t be married to that person, right?

    I want to share a true story. Should you have your Wills and Estate “lawyer” review your life insurance policy before signing on the dotted line?

    I was married previously for thirty years, until 1997. My ex husband never believed in life insurance due to I was the high earner in the family. My daughter-inlaw knew someone in her church who was an insurance agent, a very trustworthy fellow, and she had told him about no insurance policy at my house.

    She was quite insistent that we meet with her church compatriot insurance agent. So my ex actually agreed, much to my surprise. That was 1992, and in 1993 he survived major open heart surgery, at nearly age 70, spending several months in ICU waiting for surgery availability, and lived another 23 years, and of course the agent was very proud of himself having convinced my ex to have signed on the dotted line (to protect “me”) because following that brush with death he would have been declined insurance.

    But I took out insurance also to protect him, since he had become accustomed to the lifestyle my high earnings helped provide. I thought that was only fair. Even as seniors the agent did a good convincing salesmanship job.

    Well, not quite. Do you know who actually owns “your” policy? In 1997, when my marriage ended, I called the insurance company to change the beneficiary on my policy, to simply my children. “WHOOPS!!! Sorry ma’am; you cannot do that.”

    “And why not,” of course, I asked. The answer was not quite believable: “you can’t make any changes to your policy? Why?” – “because YOU don’t own it. You don’t own either policy. Not the policy on you, and not the policy on your ex husband. Only your ex husband can make changes. Because HE owns BOTH policies.”

    “WHAT? How did THAT happen?”

    “Well, when you receive a copy of the policy (which she wasn’t supposed to send to me but agreed to!) you will see two little boxes where it says your ex husband in fact OWNS BOTH POLICIES.” Sure enough that was true. Payment was stopped and both policies were cancelled. I had no rights.

    Of course I didn’t have a copy of the policy. He had it among all the other important files. And due to I had never taken care of family-business in our European home, I never dreamed that I should have checked. It’s commonly called trust. In real life, it’s stupidity.

    Once I received a copy, I set up a private appointment with the actual agent who had written the policy (the church man who seemed quite perturbed), who ran a large grief counselling centre at the church.

    I wanted to know why I hadn’t been made aware that four years earlier when he convinced my ex to buy insurance, why this topic had not been voiced or addressed.

    Due to age group the large life insurance policy was quite costly. His answer: “nothing I can do to help you. I don’t sell insurance anymore. Talk to the broker owner who moved up north someplace” (supposedly a good close friend of the agent). Turned out nothing he could or would do, either; the agent wrote the policy the broker didn’t. And the broker at TransAmerica had no responsibility. Told me to go back the (no longer) agent. Of course too much time had passed; about five years from the policy sign up date.

    So, just a heads up, folks: perhaps read your insurance policy and see who, exactly, owns it. You could be in for a big surprise.

    You just never know what really gets discussed that you do not understand. But I can say, unequivocally, that policy “ownership” was not discussed. I never would have agreed to such a thing. In the name of “trust,” it never would have occurred to me to ask who “owns” each policy.

    In some families all such discussion is really deferred to the patriarch. It was always that way in my family. I ran a super successful business, but I had nothing to do or say with business at home.

    It could fall into the category: we’re going to show you who’s really boss. And it isn’t you. I was subsequently alone for thirteen years before I could learn to trust again. The marriage broke up over something far more serious. And I never thought I would trust ever again.

    I sincerely hope this insurance situation is a wake-up call to someone out there as they make their new year plans, business and personal, for the coming year, even in a so-called loving safe stable marriage.

    It’s about knowing the right questions to ask. Just like a buyer and seller should know what questions to ask their REALTOR(r). But they can’t always ask the right questions because they simply don’t know. And they “trust” their real estate agent, right? They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

    Do you know any real estate agents who sell insurance? Or licenced to sell mutual funds and other investment portfolios?

    Some are even building inspectors on the side, who literally stand across the street to check out the roof. No kidding. Dressed in high-power suit and trappings. The roof looked good enough to him as he cruised through the building inspections on behalf of his buyer who had bought my listing, and was not present for the building inspection. That buyer trusted his real estate agent and paid his fee to be a building inspector that day.

    And here’s a different “insurance” (real estate) story you might find interesting:

    Carolyne L ?


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