Recently my boss, one of the founders of Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate, passed away. As I reflected on the great employer he was, and all the things I appreciated about him, I remembered how I loved listening to him tell the same story over and over again about how Kilkenny Real Estate became a Sutton Group franchise. So I thought I’d share it with you.
Blaine Campbell was a bit of a rebel. Don’t let his friendly, helpful ways fool you – he was a forward thinking guy who would gladly rock whatever boat needed rocking if it was the right thing to do. How Sutton Group – Kilkenny Real Estate started, for example, had everything to do with bucking the system.
Generally, being a real estate agent comes with a whole lot of expenses. Office space and administrative staff are an expected cost. Back in Blaine’s day, it was also standard to pay high commission splits. No one ever questioned it – like gas or hydro prices, it’s just the cost of doing business. People just accepted the status quo.
Blaine wasn’t interested in status quo.
He knew there had to be a better way. He found three other like-minded agents to join him in his plan to break from status quo, and together they shared the expenses of office space and an administrator. Kilkenny Real Estate was born. Maybe that doesn’t sound earth shattering, but one does not typically get close and cozy with one’s competitors, especially not entrepreneurs, and especially not in a dog-eat-dog industry like real estate. It would be like Sobeys and Safeway partnering to share a building, office supplies and personnel, but still be individual, competing companies. It just doesn’t happen.
But he didn’t care. This was, to him, a logical improvement. Beyond logic though, he also believed that relationships in the work place should be built on honesty and integrity. When that happens, sharing goes smoother, and synergy happens. (Synergy is the proven idea that a number of people working together can accomplish more than that same number of people working individually)
Other agents heard about this new arrangement and wanted in. Lower costs? Trustworthy team mates? Synergy? Everyone wanted a piece of that. Blaine welcomed them. And more came. And more. … and more. Suddenly the office was filled to capacity, and then some. As demands on their office and staff increased, so did pressure. Synergy slowed, frustrations rose.
Something had to give. Blaine had to either send everyone on their way, and return to the small four agent arrangement or a big change would have to happen.
He then heard about the Sutton franchise. The Sutton pay structure was much like the original agreement between the original four agents. Basically Sutton Group frees the entrepreneurs to keep their income and decide how they want to run their own business. After all, we are independent contractors.
After looking into Sutton Group a little further they decided to go for it. “And you should have seen what happened then!” he told me one day, grinning. Oh, how his eyes lit up whenever he got to this part. The company grew hugely and quickly after they partnered with Sutton group. He never regretted that decision.
I love that story – it is exactly everything I love about Sutton Group-Kilkenny. Integrity, relationship, synergy, and especially freedom to steer my own money, and innovative thinking. It’s everything I ever wanted in a workplace.
And it gets better.
All that innovation and freedom was not just given to the agents, it was also for the administrators. I remember how Blaine told me one day, “The best thing that happened to the office was the day we hired Roberta Talmage.” She is the office manager now, but in her starting out days as administrator, she too had that innovative streak. Roberta created an entire new system of operations and had all the paperwork organized in record time. She didn’t mind changing everything if it was needed. I love that. And the relationship bit was there too. Blaine appreciated that he could rely on her, and that she was not only his valued employee, but also trusted friend.
Even after the huge business growth, Blaine Campbell humbly served his staff. He helped make the feature sheets, the Just Listed and Sold cards, and did all the printing and marketing for us. It was his way of staying in touch with staff. Even though his poor health kept him from the office in recent months, the business was his pride and joy.
I recently sent him a thank you email, and think it’s fitting to close with his humble, team-minded words.
“I’m fortunate to have the best people in the business running the office.
They are the ones who make everything great.”
I’m gonna miss him.