Summer 2013 • Volume 7 / Issue 1
Dawn Lahlum Park Co. Realtors
Jimmy Dulin RE/MAX Ability Plus
STARS Thad Wong @Properties
These real estate leaders are doing things differently. Jennifer Shemwell Phyllis Browning Co.
Kuba Jewgieniew Realty ONE Group
In this Issue: Down on the Equestrian Farm • Pulling Some Strings • The Giving Tree
Summer 2013 Volume 7 / Issue 1
2 4 18 22 26
ON THE COVER: Clockwise from lower left, Jennifer Shemwell, Thad Wong, Jimmy Dulin, Dawn Lahlum and Kuba Jewgieniew
Letter from the Publisher
The whole real estate world is abuzz with tech-tech-tech. Yet, when we look into the successes of our featured leaders, they talk about agent-agent-agent. What is going on here?
These five power pros are shaking up the industry. Find out how their innovative business practices spell success.
Down on the Equestrian Farm
Realtor速 Carol Sollak feeds her passion for horse competitions with her love of real estate.
Pulling Some Strings From accomplished violist to real estate broker, Svetlana Javakhyan knows what true dedication and hard work can produce.
The Giving Tree
Serving the community is built into the fabric of Prudential Fox & Roach/The Trident Group. Find out how it drives their business.
Letter from the Publisher The Best of Both Worlds he whole real estate world is abuzz with tech-tech-tech. Yet, when we look into the lives, plans and successes of some younger leaders, they talk about agent-agent-agent. What is going on here?
Mind you, these aren’t real estate professionals who just talk a good game. These are Gen X leaders who have built and guided young companies to new levels of leadership in terms of sales and growth. Sure, they know how to use technology more than their predecessors. But they remain firm in their convictions that all the technology in the world hasn’t yet replaced great real estate professionals or the leaders who care about them. Only one of these inspired leaders grew up near residential real estate. They came from technology, financial services and other fields. Yet two lead new companies that are less than 12 years old and already rank in the top firms in the country. One took over a strong firm and has led it forward. Another assembled one of the most productive firms in the country from combining other firms. Each has built their organizations with unique business models in totally different markets in totally different ways. From our interviews, though, one thing came through clearly for all. They are passionate about their businesses, their families and their futures. And these leaders lead interesting lives outside of real estate. They have passions and hobbies that, in some respects, are familiar to all of us yet in others are reflective of a different generation — one that grew up in the 80’s not the 60’s. So read these stories about today’s real estate leaders who have accomplished more than just talk — they are already showing the way to the future.
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Lives of Real Estate
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Todayâ€™s Real Estate
Leaders These five power professionals are changing the face of real estate.
Whoever said that Generation Y would be changing the face of real estate hasn’t met these Gen Xers. They’re tech savvy, business savvy and building businesses that go beyond tech to get to the heart of what real estate is really about—relationships. They have the in-person skills of the Baby Boomers mixed with the tech know-how of the younger generation, and they’re making their mark on today’s real estate industry.
LORE magazine interviewed five carefully selected leaders to find out how they got their start and what they’re passionate about. Ironically, three of the five started in the financial market—as stockbrokers and analysts. One worked in the corporate world, owning a company, and another dropped out of college and worked odd jobs until he landed in real estate. The one thing they all have in common is drive and passion. They all love what they do, and it shows.
Read their stories and be inspired.
Lives of Real Estate
Generation Success Kuba Jewgieniew, CEO/Founder Realty ONE Group Inc. Irvine, Calif.
As an amateur real estate investor, Kuba Jewgieniew was frustrated. “The overall dynamic of real estate interested me. When I got my license in 2003, I only did it to gain access to the MLS in order to get real-time information on where to buy investment properties,” he says. “I was discouraged by the real estate professionals who were representing me because they weren’t listening to me.” At the time, Jewgieniew had left careers as a stockbroker and in the tech industry during the dot-com boom to become a Realtor® and investor. Shortly after he made the switch, he realized that other amateur investors probably felt the same way he did. “With my tech background, I built a website and started getting leads. Because I was also an investor, most of my clients would heed my advice. They trusted me because I had skin in the game,” he says. It wasn’t long before Jewgieniew became a topproducing agent and realized that he’d rather run a brokerage, which he’s been doing since May 2005.
Speak from the Heart
Like most supersuccessful professionals, Jewgieniew is passionate about his business and helping people. “I speak from the heart, and I’m 6
Lives of Real Estate
Despite an action-packed career, Jewgieniew is careful to balance his work life with his personal life. “I make it known to my staff that they must have balance as well—even if it means kicking them out of the office
when they’re working late nights. I’m as passionate about my family as I am about my career,” he says. In that personal time, Jewgieniew loves to travel. “My entire family is from Poland, so last year I went to some soccer games there and in the Ukraine. I am going to the World Cup in Brazil and also saw the World Cup in South Africa,” says Jewgieniew, who loves to travel domestically just as much as internationally. “The travel and recreation free my mind, which is important. You must re-energize in order to creatively grow a business.” In fact, says Jewgieniew, he takes his lead from business leaders such as Virgin Airlines Founder and Chairman Richard Branson and SpaceX Founder and Tesla Motors and PayPal Co-founder Elon Musk. “What really gets my attention are people who don’t take themselves too seriously but are progressive,” says Jewgieniew. “They’re on the forefront of business. I like radical, yet normal guys who are genuine and sincere.” One hour with Jewgieniew, and you immediately see how those traits mirror the “We’re empowering ones he’s using agents. We’re giving as a leader. “Agents are ‘the agents tools and brand’ and we’re investing in their spending money in various programs to brand” boost their business at — Kuba Jewgieniew no cost to them as Realty ONE Group Inc. we’re committed to investing in our agents,” he says. “NAR came out with a study that said only 4 percent of people chose their sales associate based on the brokerage with which they were associated. As long as that statistic continues, we’ll have fun disrupting the marketplace.”
passionate, so what I believe in comes out as genuine, sincere and authentic because it is,” he says. “People can filter through the nonsense.” And he builds that belief into his brokerage. “We have a very strong culture. We create happiness from the top down,” he says. His business philosophy is that successful experiences re-energize sales associates and that they become believers in and cheerleaders for your brand. So, it’s his job to create those successful experiences. As a visionary and a builder, Jewgieniew aligns himself with people who can get equally excited about what they’re doing. “Not everyone is a fit for our company. Quality attracts quality.” He also finds it necessary to constantly be “adapting and evolving.” Part of that change for Realty ONE, he says, is that the company will move away from opening company stores and instead work on franchising the brand to secure a national footprint. “We’re consistently opening three to five franchises monthly in California,” he says. However, he is quick to point out that “even though we’ve grown year over year, we’ve managed and monitored our growth rate. The first year of franchising is a game changer for the organization, and we’re going to take our time.” That’s because Jewgieniew believes that “everyone has a voice. We listen and offer transparency and action,” he says. “Our value proposition is that we add more. We absorb the cost and empower the agent.”
Lives of Real Estate
Generation Success Thaddeus Wong, Co-founder @properties Chicago
No one would ever accuse Thaddeus Wong, co-founder of @properties in Chicago, of not working hard enough. In college, Loyola University Chicago, he worked part time as a clerk on the trading floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, waited tables on weekends and took a full load of classes. It was during those days on the trading floor that Wong realized that a sales career was where he wanted to be, but not just selling financial products. “I realized that my talents were better suited for relationship selling,” says Wong, who knew that he wanted to sell bigger-ticket items, but still wasn’t sure what. “I wanted something where the relationship would be impactful, something that would allow me to maintain a relationship after the sale, and that led me to real estate,” he says. So, in 1995, Wong graduated from college, took six months of what he calls a vacation (instead of working two jobs and going to school, he worked only one job, with a small brokerage firm) and planned for his career in real estate. “At the time, I lived in Bucktown, an artist community in Chicago that was just beginning its cycle of gentrification,” says Wong. “I built a lot of relationships in the area and worked my network and sphere to build my business.” The area was young and vibrant, and it had a great transportation system. “It was there that I met my current business partner, Mike Golden. We were the only two guys in the office who wore ties,” laughs Wong. The two worked on residential development together and learned about construction and large-scale projects. “When we decided to form @properties in 2000, we brought a wealth of value. We had a strong foundation when it came to designing floor plans and understanding construction
Lives of Real Estate
so that became our focus,” he says. Wong and Golden formed their new brokerage company, centered on development, sales and marketing.
If you’re willing to listen and gain perspective, you’ll grow. We come up with programs and tools that we can “If you’re willing to immediately implement. A lot listen and gain Like a Magnet of companies Wong noticed that most brokerage perspective, companies didn’t understand that the come up with the you’ll grow” programs, but they agent was the client. “The brokerage have trouble company should be working for the — Thad Wong implementing them. agent,” he says, “so we built [a real @properties That’s when you stop estate] business model that attracted growing.” agents who understood and wanted Wong is also that.” Wong says that they took the working on burden of communication off the what he sees agents’ shoulders. “We handle it for as a “data them, so there’s greater organization and more consistency.” That, he says, problem.” “We’re all “acted like a magnet to attract new capturing more sales associates. Other brokerage data than we companies weren’t doing that. We ever dreamed were a young, fun startup, and we were coming up with innovative ways of,” he says. “The strength to help agents grow and develop.” of that is that Now, Wong focuses mainly on we can now sift through it and get driving the business development of the brokerage, where he concentrates direction. The problem is that oftentimes the data isn’t getting to the right on new locations, management and person.” In fact, his team recently solved hiring. “When other brokerages were contracting, we opened one new office a huge data problem at his office. “Last year, every agent was emailing a year. We figured that during the downturn would be a great time to go listings to every agent in the company. We were each getting 200-plus emails into a market that hasn’t been a day, and no one had time to read competitive in the past,” he says. them all, so we missed out on some While Wong may help drive great opportunities,” he says. They business development, his true recently created an agent application acumen is with marketing. “A lot of that takes that information off of the ideas and creativity that go with email and puts it in the app. “Agents company advertising on a macro level can organize the information by and small agent programs come from content and sift through what they my team,” he says. He also enjoys deem important first,” he says. “It has building and growing with people professionally and personally. “I pride taken away 90 percent of the inefficiency of our communication myself on being a good listener. center.” (Continued on p. 16)
Lives of Real Estate
Generation Success Jennifer Shemwell, President Phyllis Browning Co. San Antonio, Tex. Despite having a mother who is a prominent real estate leader, Jennifer Shemwell didn’t exactly plan to get into the family business. “I graduated from Yale University in 1991 with a degree in economics and political science,” says Shemwell, who went to work for a stock brokerage firm upon graduation. “I also worked for the U.S. government at the World’s Fair in 1992.” Working at those jobs made Shemwell aware that she would rather be an “ambassador for people.” At the time, her mother’s company, Phyllis Browning Co., was four years old and expanding. “I came on board as a relocation director in 1993,” she says. She earned her real estate license and “learned very quickly that I loved sales.” Driven by the need to earn the respect of her peers, Shemwell worked hard and was a top sales associate in San Antonio. “I got my brokerage license to prove that I was capable of being successful on my own, not just because Mother owned the company,” she says. Since 2008, Shemwell has run her mother’s company, which has five offices and 150 sales associates.
Help Me Help You
Like most flourishing brokers, Shemwell is passionate about helping people achieve their goals. “I love to train agents to be 10
Lives of Real Estate
have time to join a club team. After all, she has three young children at home—Paris (12), Browning (11) and Reed (9). “I make my famous homemade pancakes almost every Saturday morning. We really love to cook together.” The family, including husband Bob, who is a partner in an “We challenge each architecture firm, other to beat goals, but keeps busy participating in a not at the expense of the host of activities, person next to us.” including cross country — Jennifer Shemwell running, baseball, tennis, lacrosse and Phyllis Browning Co. ballet dancing. And through it all, Shemwell is crystal clear about how she wants to be perceived in both her business life and her personal life— as the consummate professional who truly cares about the people with whom she works and plays. “My mother inspires me because she treats people so well. She is the ultimate model for taking care of people and for providing Game, Set, Match impeccable customer service. Not With a schedule like Shemwell’s, only that, but she can balance so many downtime is vital. “I enjoy Bikram things in a day,” says Shemwell, who yoga because it builds time for notes that her mother is still the No. 1 stillness and deep breathing into my agent in the market. life. It allows me to slow down and There’s no doubt that Browning’s collect my thoughts,” she says. As a careful attention to people has rubbed former high school and college tennis champ (she won a state championship off on Shemwell. “I love what I do and love helping people. When you in high school), Shemwell stays fit by playing the game, although she doesn’t share your passion, people respond.”
successful and to be the best they can be,” she says. That’s why she spends a lot of time training agents new to the company on how to be the most professional agents in the city. “We give them the tools they need to differentiate themselves,” she says. She takes pride in the culture of her business, which, she says, is “a very formal office. Men wear coats and ties; women come to work well dressed. People have a lot of respect for each other.” In fact, says Shemwell, her office culture reflects the very essence of Texas, where everything really is bigger. “We take our work and each other very seriously, but we also have a lot of fun.” So much so that the local newspaper voted Phyllis Browning Co. a top San Antonio workplace in 2012. Because of this company culture, “People naturally become good friends with other agents in the office. We’re competitive against ourselves, not each other,” says Shemwell. “We challenge each other to beat goals from last year, but not at the expense of the person sitting next to [us],” she says. It’s part of her ideal of offering good, oldfashioned customer service to both buyers and sellers and to their peers.
Lives of Real Estate
Generation Success Jimmy Dulin, President RE/MAX Ability Plus Carmel, Ind.
Jimmy Dulin had an epiphany as a college freshman. “I was attending Broward Community College in Miami, Fla., when I raised my hand in my American history class. I told the professor, ‘I’m an Indiana guy, and I’m going back home,’” laughs Dulin. “That was my last day of school.” And that was the beginning of Dulin’s realization that he needed to find a career that would provide him flexible hours and unlimited potential. He found that
Lives of Real Estate
career in real estate. “When I got back to Indiana, I delivered pizzas, bartended, waited on tables and cleaned a video store. I sold real estate during the day, saved my money and worked hard,” he says. That was in 1991, when Dulin was 21 years old. In March 1992, a RE/MAX broker recognized his work ethic. “I was recruited by the No. 1 regional broker-owner, but I couldn’t afford to join RE/MAX,” says Dulin. However, the broker
Climbing the Ladder
Within three years, Dulin had decided he wanted to move up. “By 1995, I joined [the broker] as a small minority partner in the firm,” he says. But it all came crashing down on Dulin when the managing partner in the firm was caught embezzling the office money. “Although I was only a small, minority partner, I lost it all and had to find a new (business) home,” says Dulin. He found that in RE/MAX Realty Specialists, also in Carmel. By 1999, he became a partner, although reluctantly. “I would agree only if we had a third partner,” he says. It was a big year for Dulin. Not only did he become a partner in the firm, but also his son was born and his wife quit working. “We were also building a custom home,” laughs Dulin. Within two months of becoming a partner, he put his first merger together. “The other RE/MAX office was owned by two well-respected managers, and we took their firm name: RE/MAX Ability Plus,” says Dulin. With five principals, the company was profitable, yet stagnant. So, in 2001, Dulin and two others bought out the remaining partners. They launched a second office and breathed new life into the company. Several years later, Dulin offered to buy out the remaining two partners, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they finally agreed. “I was 37 years old, and five agents immediately quit when they heard I was going to be the owner,” says Dulin. “We were down to 32 agents. Flash forward to today, and we have 120 agents and have
believed in him and offered to cover his desk fee until he could afford it.
done nine mergers over the last four years. We’ve reported double-digit growth each year.” While Dulin loved selling homes, he loves owning a company even more. “I traded in the “I wanted to create a lifestyle of making tremendous money company that felt and selling homes to looked different from pursue my passion,” he says. others in the market.”
Creating a Buzz
— Jimmy Dulin RE/MAX Ability Plus
As sole owner, Dulin knew he had to make an impact. “The one underlying issue is that in my marketplace, the companies all looked the same. I wanted to create a company that felt and looked different. I wanted to stand out physically and philosophically.” It’s safe to say that Dulin was passionate about shaking up the norm. He redesigned his offices so that all the workspaces were in the center of the room. “We moved all the activity and people to the center, and doing that created some movement and excitement. We created a buzz,” he says. That was the physical transformation. The philosophical one came alive when Dulin “reversed the roles. We identified the agent as the customer. Putting the agent as our No. 1 prospect allows us to set a tone not duplicated by competitors.” (Continued on p. 16)
Lives of Real Estate
Generation Success Dawn Lahlum, Broker-Owner Park Co. Realtors® Fargo, N.D.
Dawn Lahlum, broker-owner of Park Co. Realtors, didn’t sell real estate before becoming a brokerowner. In fact, she didn’t even become a manager before becoming a broker. “I started in real estate in the most unconventional of ways,” says Lahlum. Right out of college, she worked with Minnkota Power Cooperative as a records management specialist. Her next job was with a local hospital. 14
Lives of Real Estate
In each of Lahlum’s positions, her success depended on her strong people and organizational skills, which she had learned early on. “I grew up on a small dairy and grain farm in central North Dakota, where I learned the meaning of hard work and earning a living off of a market-driven business,” she says. Not only that, but she was in a serious car accident the night she graduated from high school. “I should not have survived,” she says.
“It was a major turning point in my life, teaching me that life is too short not to make use of the talents that God gave me.” With corporate experience in systems management, she was brought into Park Co. Realtors in 1994 to incorporate technology into the company. In fact, it wasn’t until 1999 that Lahlum earned her real estate license and 2000 when she earned her broker’s license.
says. While that is important, it’s her passion for others that truly drives her success. “I love to see agents do well. For “Life is too short not to me, it’s about being make use of the talents able to provide the God gave me” tools, training and coaching necessary — Dawn Lahlum for success and to Park Co. Realtors witness our associates reaching new levels far above their goals and expectations. That’s what brings Transitions “After a year, I fell in love with real me to work every day!” estate and the people at Park Co.,” One example she says. She saw potential for of that is a new, professional and personal growth in all-encompassing “an exciting industry with unlimited internal transaction potential. Individuals determined their own ceiling,” says Lahlum. Along management system, called the the way she took mental notes on ParkPRO System. what she would and wouldn’t do if “It’s a game she pursued a real estate career. changer for us. It’s In 2000, she got her chance to put those mental notes into play. “When I changed the way our agents provide services to clients and how we provide started, our CEO was thinking about services to retirement, and I worked with her our agents,” she says. closely,” says Lahlum. “Eventually, in She credits the company’s focus on 1998, I became a vice president. So, serving the agent as a way to positively when [the CEO] retired two years impact the lives of sales associates, later, I assumed the majority of her duties.” In 2012, Lahlum, along with staff, their families, customers and ultimately, she says, the community. two partners, bought the company. “At a young age, I knew I would own a Her motto: “Technology integration without the loss of personal touch is business someday. I just didn’t know a driving force behind our decisions.” what type of business that would be In fact, Lahlum’s office was one of and certainly never guessed it would be a real estate company,” she laughs. the first in her market to adopt the use of electronic signatures. She was As with most profitable managers, also asked by the North Dakota Real it’s Lahlum’s ability to serve her sales Estate Commission to help institute associates and staff and to see trends measures to make electronic missed by others that are key to her success. “I’ve been told that I have the signatures in real estate transactions ability to see what others can’t,” she (Continued on p. 17) Lives of Real Estate
Generation Success (Wong continued from p. 9)
Since Wong’s wife, Emily, is also in real estate, it’s tough for them to avoid talking shop when they have a rare moment alone together. “We like to go to movies. It’s a way to spend some time together. Plus, we talk so much in our jobs that it’s nice to have some quiet time together,” says Wong. But he won’t get that quiet time at home. The Wongs have four children: Ella (10), Hattie (8), Blake (7) and Palmer (5). “My first real estate listing was on Palmer Street. My wife showed it and that’s how we met, so we decided to name our youngest son Palmer,” says Wong, who was married in 2001.
(Dulin continued from p.13)
Today, Dulin finds his leadership role exhilarating. “The minute you accept someone else’s license underneath you, you must accept and embrace that responsibility,” he says. “I wake up every morning and ask, ‘What can we do to create a system or opportunity that improves the chance of our agents’ success?’ We have a clear mission statement, and it includes the agents in the process. We’re not afraid to say no if something doesn’t align with where we’re going. It makes relationships easier.” And Dulin truly listens to what his agents want. “I tackle the challenges that get in the way of our real estate professionals’ selling homes. I’ll talk
Lives of Real Estate
He and Emily like to spend one-onone time with the children in order to forge a connection. “I was an only child, so I feel like my children get more out of me personally when we’re one on one,” he says. The Wongs are all sports fans, and they love to attend games of all the professional Chicago sports teams—the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox. While Wong finds inspiration in his family, “people who make great decisions on a daily basis” also inspire him. “I believe that I’m only as good as my last sale. It keeps me fresh and hungry. I’m only as good as my last marketing idea. I won’t rest on my laurels.”
to agents about what’s going on, and I’ll build a system that removes the this-and-the-that. My goal is to have agents focus on listing, selling and prospecting. Beyond those three activities, they should enjoy their families.”
Speaking of family, Dulin carves out plenty of time to spend with his family and his hobbies. He’s been married 15 years to Tamara, a pharmacist. He’s also a foodie. “I’m studying to be a chef and getting an associate’s degree in culinary arts.” In fact, Dulin is currently building a new office that will have a full commercial kitchen so that he can cook for his sales associates. His son, Jd (13), is a junior-ranked
golfer who competes nationally. His daughter, Alli (11), is a cheerleader, dancer, model and performer. “She recently competed in cheer nationals at Disney World,” he says. “I’m a softy. My son epitomizes commitment, dedication, focus and drive. My daughter wakes up every morning with the warmest and kindest disposition and heart. She will make the world a better place. And I’ve never met anyone as pure and good as my wife.” If all that doesn’t sound like enough, Dulin loves to ride Motocross. “I’m not interested in risking my life, but I love to ride motorcycles,” he says.
That’s not to say that Dulin doesn’t take risks with his business. He does so because he admires the risks that Dave Liniger, co-founder of RE/MAX International, took to make his company a success. “I can’t compare to the successes that he’s had in his career, but I do feel an incredible connection. The things I’m attempting to do are new to my side of the business, much like the risks he took to create a new organization,” says Dulin. “I’m drawn to Dave’s success, his fight and his spirit.” That fight is what got Dulin where he is today. “I’m very blessed.”
(Lahlum continued from p. 15)
legal in the state. “That most certainly was a game changer,” she says.
The Great Outdoors
As an innovative leader, Lahlum finds it’s vital to maintain strong ties in the community. “I’m not sure that makes me different from others, but it does define who I am,” she says. And, much of that time giving back is with causes that benefit children. Herself a mother of two, Trista (10) and Max (7), Lahlum, along with husband, Brian (owner of a telecommunications company), believe in giving children the power to dream big. “My parents are hardworking people,” says Lahlum. “They instilled in me, at a young age, (the belief) that life is all about the relationships you
have, not the things you have. I was fortunate to find a husband with those same beliefs.” The couple’s commitment to family is so strong that they chose to live a rural lifestyle even though it meant a 90-minute round-trip commute each day. “We live in rural Minnesota on a 15-acre setting where our kids can be close to their grandparents, and we can all enjoy country life,” she says. There, they spend time snowmobiling, ice fishing (they have an ice-fishing house set up on the lake by their home), boating and water skiing. “The kids each have their own snowmobiles,” she says. “My children inspire me. Seeing the potential in their eyes inspires me to be a better person because I know they are looking up to me,” she says. L Lives of Real Estate
Down On the
Equestrian Farm For this broker, clients are friends and friends are clients. Eleven years ago, Broker Carol Sollak of Engel & Völkers in Wellington, Fla., invested in a show hunter, a horse that competes in competitive horse show events. “I grew up in Wellington (a village in Palm Beach County, Fla.) where a lot of people have horses,” says Sollak. “I have always ridden socially.” But, this was her first foray into competitive horse shows, and she was hooked.
“Being from Wellington, it was a natural fit for me to work with equestrian home buyers,” says Sollak, who has two offices in Palm Beach and Wellington. However, her career path wasn’t a straight line. Sollak and her husband owned a bar and restaurant that catered to the horse show and polo crowd. “We would cater the horse shows and got to know a lot of people. So, it was easy to get into real estate after selling the restaurant,” she says. That was 17 years ago, and Sollak’s real estate career and her love of equestrian competition has skyrocketed.
We would cater the horse shows and got to know a lot of people. So, it was easy to get into real estate after selling the restaurant. — Carol Sollak, Engel & Völkers
From early on, Sollak knew to keep her niche small and specialized, selling equestrian homes only in Wellington. “I didn’t try to go into Boca Raton and Jupiter,” she says. It wasn’t until six years after she started her real estate career did she invest in her first horse. “I sold a home to Eric Lamaze, an Olympic show horse jumper, and that got me interested in investing,” she says. Sollak was encouraged to invest in horses much like Lamaze was investing in real estate. “It was also a way to connect with my clientele,” she says. At first, she bought from friends; now she buys and sells exclusively through Lamaze. She
Professional show horse jumper Alexandra Paillot leads Brooklyn Blues over a jump at Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival.
currently owns one jumper, Brooklyn Blues, and recently sold another. “This jumper is 9 years old and is moving up in the class to the Meter 50. She’s our first mare and is moving up quickly,” says Sollak.
Mixing Business With Pleasure
For Sollak, it’s hard to tell where her business ends and her personal life begins. Both are so intertwined that she socializes for much of the year with the people on the horse show circuit, many of whom are also clients. Sollak and her husband also are partners in Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival, a well-respected 12-week horse show extravaganza in
Lives of Real Estate
West Palm Beach (near Wellington). The show brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community and raises equal amounts of money for charity. In addition to competing locally, Lamaze—her best friend, client and horse trainer— travels with Brooklyn Blues throughout Europe. Lamaze has competed for Canada in both the Beijing and London Olympics. He won a gold medal in the jumper category in Beijing. “Eric is based out of Belgium and Canada. He takes her to compete in France, Italy, London, Spain and more,” she says. The height of the horse show circuit is in the winter, although Lamaze and Sollak compete in some smaller horse shows in the summer months. Lamaze and Sollak have a mutually beneficial relationship. He rides and trains Sollak’s horse and serves as an advisor to her when buying and selling horses. “When he is not riding, his second passion is investing in real estate,” she says. “He invests in a lot of properties and homes in the area. What he does in real estate with me, I do with the horses with him,” she says.
These aren’t just clients; they’re friends,” she says—friends who buy multi-million dollar equestrian farms. “Most of my clients have homes all over the world. Wellington is a lifestyle. They generally stay at the Wellington properties for four months of the year, the longest stay of any other place,” she says. Sollak has a lot of repeat and referral business, particularly from international buyers, but she credits her hard work, knowledge of the equestrian world and excellent service to her success. “If you do a good job, people recognize it. We share a passion; they see me committed to my career and to the equestrian world. More than that, they’re interested in you personally as much as you’re interested in them,” she says. The fact that Sollak owns a horse and grew up in the community gives her a unique advantage. “I know these people, I am part of their world. If they come to me, I automatically know that they need a dressage barn or a polo barn. I know the lifestyle,” she says.
Not only does she know the lifestyle, she lives it herself. She is passionate about all things equestrian. Friends Forever “I love the people. You meet these Lamaze isn’t the only one traveling amazing people from all over the world, Europe for horse shows. Sollak and and they all share the same passion. At her husband also travel to all of the the end of the day, everyone wants his shows. “It’s a small, tight-knit community,” says Sollak, when talking or her horse to win, but it’s their love of the sport and the love of the animal about the horse owners and riders. “Everyone is very close, we’re a family. that ties us all together.” She is truly living the life. L
Lives of Real Estate
The Local Agent with the Global Network. Engel & Völkers is one of the world’s most respected names in Fine International Real Estate – and now offers its exclusive services in Wellington and beyond. Over 35 years of experience in selling luxury homes 485 property shops, in 35 countries on 5 continents Selling power of 4,000 Real Estate Advisors worldwide Exceptional “white glove” buyer and seller services Local market expertise with unparalleled global service network Peace of mind for our clients
CAROL A. SOLLAK, P.A. Principal
Wellington USA Palm Beach USA
Engel & Völkers Wellington 13501 South Shore Boulevard, Suite #103, Wellington, FL, 33414
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How I Got My Start
This talented musician is using the skills she honed in performances to work for her in business.
Svetlana Javakhyan knows what it means to be disciplined. As an accomplished violist, she put in long hours of practice that enabled her to study and play all over the world. It’s that discipline that gave her laser focus when it comes to real estate as well. “There are no miracles in performance or in business. You must work hard, you must work smart, and you must concentrate on what’s important,” says Javakhyan, brokerowner of WEICHERT, REALTORS®— Blueprint Brokers in Medford, Mass.
In the Beginning
At the tender age of five, Javakhyan was given a piano by her grandfather. “I started playing violin at the same time,” says Javakhyan, who was born and raised in Armenia. Although her parents weren’t musically inclined, it was clear that Javakhyan had a gift. So much so that her parents had her audition for a prestigious Armenian music school. “Back then, if you were chosen, you had to give a monetary benefit to the school in order to attend. After my audition, my father was called into the director’s office where he expected to be asked for money. Instead, they told him that I was very talented,” she says.
Photo by Tracy King
Lives of Real Estate
How I Got My Start
In 1992, Javakhyan and her parents moved to Poland where she continued her music education. Noticing how gifted she was, Javakhyan’s parents, who knew a family with a son in the Vienna Philharmonic, set up an audition at the Anton Bruckner Private University of Music, Drama and Dance in Linz, Austria. Javakhyan was 12 years old at the time. “I had never even been on a sleepover before and all of a sudden I was moving to Austria alone,” she says.
“I had never even been on a sleepover before and all of a sudden I was moving to Austria alone.”
Moving to America
In 2000, Javakhyan chose to study in the United States. She auditioned for and was accepted by The Boston Conservatory. “I wanted to study with Patricia McCarty, — Svetlana Javakhyan former assistant WEICHERT, REALTORS®— principal violist of the Boston Symphony Blueprint Brokers Orchestra,” she says. In order to afford the education, Javakhyan secured a sponsorship, but, she says, “It still wasn’t enough.” By that time, she had caught the eye of Aso Tavitian, an Armenian-American philanthropist who sponsors Armenian students in top universities. Due to his generosity, Javakhyan was able to study and graduate with a master’s degree in music performance. For the next five years, Javakhyan performed in such famous places as New York’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and traveled the world performing throughout Germany and Italy to name a few. Javakhyan
Lives of Real Estate
performed for, among others, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik and the Secretary General of the United Nation Kofi Annan as a viola soloist. She also performed as a finalist in Young Virtuosos of Carnegie Hall.
Beginning of the End
Then, disaster struck. A hand injury forced Javakhyan to abandon a career in music performance. “I was preparing for my final recital for my master’s degree of music performance when my hand started involuntarily jumping away from the instrument,” says Javakhyan, who, after getting medical treatment was able to graduate. But, the overuse injury meant a career in music wasn’t in her future. For Javakhyan, it was a blessing in disguise. “Music is a part of me, but I was always interested in the business world as well. This was my guilt-free way to do something else with my life,” she says. She chose real estate, joining ERA Boston Real Estate Group in 2006. “I love the architecture of Boston, and I could start a real estate career without a huge investment,” she says. “My broker recognized some talent in me. Within the first three months, I was mentioned in an article about up-and-coming young brokers in Boston.”
Opening Her Brokerage
She met her current partner in March 2012, and was offered a position as vice president of sales. “Fredrick Massa and I had a similar vision and our partnership was natural, so we decided to purchase a Weichart franchise,” she says.
Because of her music training, Javakhyan recognized the importance of being a team player. “When you’re playing in a trio or quartet, you need to concentrate on making it the best performance you can but there are three or four people all working toward that same goal,” she says. “That insight has carried over into my real estate career.” Javakhyan says she’s building her real estate company from the ground up. “My vision for the company is to provide the best possible training. Fred runs the commercial division,” she says. Her emphasis will be on hiring a mix of the right people. “I want my potential clients to feel a connection with the people they work with, so it’s important to have a motivated person who also has skills.” Despite her injury, Javakhyan is still able to perform on a limited basis, which is exactly how she likes it. She recently performed at with the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra and does several charity events each year. But, she says, “Right now in my life, I couldn’t be happier. I don’t regret a thing I’ve done.” L
Svetlana Javakhyan plays principle violist (the blonde woman to the right of the conductor in the first chair) for the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra in March 2012.
Lives of Real Estate
Commitment to Community
Giving to the community is built into the fabric of this brokerage company’s business model.
You could hear a pin drop in the room. The African American man strolled up on stage, all high tops and baggy pants. He said only a few words, but what he said was powerful. “He told our group of managers and charitable foundation representatives that if it hadn’t been for the help he received through Fox & Roach Charities that he’d be in jail today,” says Gerard F. Griesser, owner/ president of Prudential Fox & Roach/The Trident Group, with 56 offices in three states: Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “It wasn’t as much what he said as the visual,” he says. That, says Griesser, signifies why so many of the 4,000 agents and 550 employees give so freely to Fox & Roach Charities. “It’s built into the fabric of our company,” he says.
A Formal Program
While the company has been giving back to the community since 1886, a formal program was put into place in 1995. That year, Griesser and two other leadership team members met with executives from a Washington-based company. “They were interested in learning more about our financial services business, and we were interested in learning about their charitable foundation, so we spent three days with them exchanging information. That year, Habitat for Humanity was a 26 LORE
Lives of Real Estate
recipient of the foundation’s grants. The company also started a community service day, which they still do today. “We close the offices and allow everyone to go out into the community and lend a helping hand,” says Griesser. “Imagine the impact of having 4,700 people go out in the community,” says Kassie Erb, president of Fox & Roach Charities. “If we were to translate that into dollar amounts, it would be another $200,000 of volunteer time each year.”
The Giving Tree
When building the foundation, it was clear that there should be both company giving campaigns and individual office campaigns. Money is collected through voluntary commission deductions from sales associates and employees, where some 65 percent participate. Other funding comes directly from Prudential Fox & Roach and The Trident Group. “We have two different ways of funding,” says Erb. “One is through the Board of Trustees, where 40 percent of every dollar donated goes to a fund that makes larger impacts,” she says. Those Challenge Grants for $10,000 each go to Gesu School or have gone to Respond Inc., Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks, Delaware Hospice and the ESF Dream Camp Foundation. “Generally, this money is used by the charity to hold an event that will potentially turn the $10,000 we gave into $50,000 or $100,000,” says Erb. Smaller grants are also offered. “The Board of Trustees meets three times a year to approve grants,” she says. The other way of funding is through individual offices. Here, the remaining
60 percent of every dollar goes into office and department funds. “Our agents and managers are out in the community and know where the funding is needed,” says Erb. “Offices will recommend charities to the Board of Trustees, and the funds will be approved and distributed. We all believe strongly in giving back to the community,” she says. In fact, she and Griesser are quick to point out that 100 percent of the employees, managers and sales associates at the Rosemont office have been participating since 2006. “They generally split their funds between Baker Industries, Calcutta House and Manna,” says Erb. Each fall, Erb conducts a drive to encourage agents and employees to elect in the automatic deductions. “We give awards for offices that have 100 percent participation. We have 18 offices that are at 100 percent participation and another three to five that are between 80 to 100 percent participation,” says Griesser. “We encourage friendly competition between offices to get participation,” he adds.
Skin in the Game
Grants aren’t the only way Prudential Fox & Roach gives back to the community. In addition to community service day, the company holds an annual backpack drive where they fill backpacks with toiletries and school supplies and hand them out to homeless and foster kids across the tri-state area. “In six years, we’ve donated 6,000 backpacks,” says Erb. They also hold annual blood drives in conjunction with the American Red Cross and have annual book drives. But, one of the programs that is a sales associate favorite is the Reading Stars Lives of Real Estate
Commitment to Community
Program, which pairs sales associates with elementary students. “Our employees and sales associates love this program and so do the kids,” says Griesser. “Many kids will skip school field trips in order to come to our office and meet with their mentor,” he says. In addition, separate from Fox & Roach Charities, Prudential Fox & Roach/The Trident Group raised some $987,000 for disaster relief efforts. “We provided aid to those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Japan and more,” says Griesser. “In 2013, we built a house for a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We built it in a high school parking lot in Philadelphia, and then shipped it to Louisiana. We had sales associates paying their own travel costs just to get to Louisiana and help build the house back up for the family,” he says. “It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.” The company also covers 100 percent of the administrative costs of Fox & Roach Charities, “so that we can give all the money donated right back into the community,” says Griesser. “If you give $1 to Fox & Roach Charities, $1 is going back out to help someone in the community,” says Erb. The best part, says Erb, is that the charity has 100 percent buy in from the managers. “When you have managers and executives who believe in the charitable foundation, it encourages sales associates and employees to get involved too,” she says. “It’s the way we kept our participation high even during tough economic times.”
Lives of Real Estate
All in the Family
For Griesser and the rest of the executive team at Prudential Fox & Roach/The Trident Group, helping sales associates and employees in distress is just as important as helping those in the community. “When one of the namesakes of the company, Bill Fox, Sr., passed from Huntington’s disease, we named a fund in honor of him (The Bill Fox, Sr. Family Fund),” says Griesser. “If you’re an agent or employee and you know someone in your office who is going through a tough time—a house fire, stolen car, a child with medical issues—he or she can write a letter and the executive team will approve anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 to give to that person in need.” And, it’s all done discreetly. “The manager discreetly hands the check to sales associate or employee. We’ve given out some $600,000 dollars in just one year so far through this fund.”
Pay It Forward
For other brokers who are considering building a charitable foundation, Griesser and Erb says, “You can start slow if you want. Partner with non profits to hold food and backpack drives, start a community service day where you close your office on a weekday and encourage agents to get out there and spruce up neighborhoods or paint schools.” Then, says Erb, recognize them for their efforts. “I’ve had a number of sales associates say that they believe Fox & Roach Charities is part of the fabric of our company,” says Griesser. “It’s ingrained in the sales people and they’ve even said that the company giving back is an important differentiating point.” L
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In recent years, the process of selling your home has rarely inspired an image of smooth sailing and many home sellers have put their dreams on hold. We are happy to report that the market is moving again and Prudential Fox & Roach, RealtoRsÂŽ and î “e trident Group are ready to calm the waters of the selling experience. as the dominant total home services company in the region, we can help you sail past unexpected problems every step of the way.
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Published on Apr 26, 2013
Published on Apr 26, 2013
Welcome to the summer edition of LORE magazine! We’re bringing you the amazing stories of the lives of real estate (LORE) professionals in a...