When Gurinder Sandu, then regional director of Re/Max Integra Ontario-Atlantic Region announced in July 2016 that he was leaving to pursue an ownership opportunity, Christopher Alexander was quick to say he wanted to step in. But despite his family’s connection to the business – his grandfather is Re/Max Integra co-founder and chairman Frank Polzler and his mother is CEO of North American operations Pamela Alexander – no one was quick to just hand him the reins.
In a July 2016 interview with REM, Integra’s co-founder and president Walter Schneider said the company was going to take its time to find the right fit.
That’s exactly what they did. Despite having a successful run working in franchise sales with the company, it took Alexander another three-and-a-half months of persistence and proving himself with increased responsibility before being officially given the nod to succeed Sandhu.
Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada’s newest regional director laughs when asked how he got his start in real estate.
“My first job in real estate was when I was 13 and worked as a janitor at my parents’ Re/Max brokerage,” says Alexander. “Over the years, I advanced myself into other roles within the office like doing collections and working the front desk.”
Alexander says he didn’t always have his sights on entering the real estate industry. He had a tremendous passion for history and started off his post-secondary schooling at Carleton University in Ottawa pursuing political science. But he says while he understood the importance of higher education, he was also discovering that he wasn’t much of a scholar.
“Honestly, at the time, I had a hard time buckling down and studying,” says Alexander. “Still, I knew I wanted to do well in life and make a very good income, and real estate is one profession where you can definitely do that without having a Ph.D. or MBA.”
The young Alexander pursued his real estate licence while still at university, and after graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in history, started working at the family brokerage as a sales agent.
As the years progressed, he took on more of a leadership role within the company, doing training and some management in terms of planning and helping new agents. In 2014, Alexander started doing franchise sales with Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada. He describes this time as when he really hit the ground running, quickly securing a few key sales, and then continuing the trend through 2015 when he did some big conversions and brought over some high-profile people from both Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
Then, in 2016, when Sandhu announced that he was leaving to pursue an ownership opportunity, Alexander says he put up his hand up right away.
After being promoted to his new role, one of the first things Alexander did was talk to agents and brokers across various markets, including the more remote areas that hadn’t been visited too often in the past. He listened as they described their biggest challenges, what they loved or hated about the business, and areas they thought the company could improve on. The core of those conversations, says Alexander, was that sales agents and brokers really believed in the roots of the company and wanted it to continue focusing on and supporting full-time agents who are serious about the business.
“The emergence of discount companies – the low fee, low service model – is trending,” says Alexander, adding that he feels the industry’s biggest challenge today is marginal sales people. “The more part-time and unprofessional agents who give consumers bad experiences, the more disruptors will try to commoditize our industry.”
Alexander says that “teams are huge” and describes them as the way forward for industry professionals. Specifically, he says his company is putting a large focus towards building the tools and systems to help develop and support business teams that have real asset value.
“Teams are the most profitable model in the industry and there have been sales of these team companies, especially in the U.S.,” says Alexander. “As an individual agent, your retirement plan is only as good as your last deal, but if you can build a real asset, and we can show you how to do that, I think that will have a huge impact on the livelihoods of our sales force.”
With Re/Max’s recent rebranding to freshen their look for the times, Alexander says in the spirit of building teams and being “home of the top producers and those who aspire to be”, Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada will continue providing agents and brokers tools, services and education to help them grow and make running their businesses easier.
He says the company is working to help its sales professionals spend less time on non-revenue producing activities so they can spend “more time focused on building their business and spending time doing the things they love, with the people they love.”
Tony Palermo is a contributing writer for REM.