In 2018, when asked about his retirement plans, Tom Bosley, the third-generation owner and president of Bosley Real Estate in Toronto said, “You don’t really leave a family firm. You just leave it in better shape for the next generation.” Back then, the company had already begun its transition into a digital future and potentially foresaw a fourth generation of Bosley leadership.
That transition was completed in August 2020, when Christan Bosley, Tom’s daughter, officially took over the reins of this 93-year-old family institution. (Tom now serves as chair of the company and Ann, Tom’s wife and Christan’s mother, is director). The firm has produced nine Toronto Real Estate Board presidents, five Real Estate Council of Ontario chairmen, three CREA presidents, and two Ontario Real Estate Association presidents.
William H. Bosley, Christan’s great-grandfather, who founded the company in 1928, helped establish the Toronto board and Ontario’s provincial real estate association.
In Every Family’s Business: 12 Common Sense Questions to Protect Your Wealth, author Thomas William Deans states that only 30 per cent of family businesses survive to the second generation. And of those, only 10 per cent make it to the third generation. “If you’re a founder of a business, you have a three per cent chance of your grandchildren owning and operating your business. Long odds indeed,” writes Dean.
Bosley Real Estate has not just beaten those odds but also belongs to a rarified circle of women-owned real estate brokerages.
As broker of record and the first female Bosley president, the weight of the responsibility on her shoulders was not lost on Christan. “You know, after 90 years, within literally six months of taking over, I feared I would tank the company in the middle of the global pandemic,” she says. But under Christan’s digital leadership and know how, Bosley agents were already on the fast tech track to having hybrid meetings to accommodate those who weren’t close by or unable to make it on site.
“So, from a technology standpoint, the transition was very simple. We had all our staff transitioned within a week to working remotely and completely set up at home. It did push us to centralize and move our marketing team off site. That has been one of the silver linings from the pandemic because our team is working better than they have in a long time and certainly much more efficiently,” Christan says.
“We continued our sales meetings once a week. But we’ve shifted the content of our sales meetings in response to what’s happening in the environment around us.”
As a big proponent of mental wellbeing and as someone who has struggled with mental health in the past, Christan saw the need for sales meetings to be a safe space for Bosley agents to also discuss mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“We had 300+ agents wondering how they were going to make a living and whether they’d be deemed essential or not. So, I brought in a mental health expert and we talked about coping mechanisms and how to ensure that agents stayed in a routine while they were at home, and how to make sure they were prioritizing their needs, so they could take care of everybody else,” she says.
Despite Bosley’s shift to digital meetings, upwards of 60 per cent of Bosley agents continued to use the company’s physical locations. “It’s one of the defining differences of the Bosley experience – the fact that people actually choose to come on site and participate in what we have to offer,” says Christan.
In an age that no longer questions the success and viability of virtual brokerages with a digital-only business model, many wonder if centralized brick-and-mortar establishments are a thing of the past. But recently, Bosley consolidated three of their Toronto office spaces into a new 11,000-sq.ft. location at 103 Vanderhoof Avenue. With the addition of a new location in Thornbury, Ont., Bosley now has seven physical locations, thereby quashing the doubt.
“To be honest, I really think that question is a comparison of apples to oranges. I think that the (virtual) business model is so dramatically different. It doesn’t ever phase me as a competitor of Bosley. Sure, they’re out there, but at the end of the day, it really is a different offering and it attracts a different level of professionalism,” says Christan.
Human beings need connections, she says. And if there’s anything that the last two years has taught her, it’s that people in isolation are not effective in a sales position because many sales associates are extroverts and need human contact.
“It’s one thing for an agent to go and get that from their clients. But I firmly believe that if you’re not in a physical office location, face-to-face with your peers, you’re missing out on such incredible and critical learning.” She says the last six agents she hired come from Gen Z – who are entirely online.
“And those Gen Zs are coming into the office to participate because there’s something here for them. What we have here is (almost 100 years) of experience,” she says.
Therein lies the secret to the Bosley success. Staying true to Tom Bosley’s motto to “have fun to make money”, Christan says her leadership values are identical to her father’s.
“I lead by the same things that Tom led by when he was president. He was 100-per-cent present with our agents. He believed that if we’re not having fun, we’re going to change it. What’s the point in doing something that doesn’t bring you happiness? I know what’s happening in most of our agents’ lives. I am present totally. When I speak to them, I am here to support them. It’s a very different mentality. I call them, they don’t necessarily call me. And I think that’s unique for a brokerage.”
Sohini Bhattacharya is a contributing writer for REM.