Succession Successes: Handing over the reins at Royal LePage Royal City Realty
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘When I began my career in real estate, I told myself that I’d leave the business only after I’d completely figured it out,’ Robb Atkinson tells me. We are sitting together in his boardroom on Speedvale. It’s been forty years since Robb first became a realtor, and thirty-three since he started his first brokerage. And this year he’s finally decided to work toward calling it quits after selling the Royal LePage Royal City Realty brokerage he built over the past decades.
I guess Robb’s finally got it figured out.
I’d say. Consider this: Robb’s brokerages have held top market share in Guelph for more than two decades. I ask Robb how he’s managed to accomplish this. His reply: ‘It’s got less to do with me than with the team of real estate professionals who have represented the brokerage all these years. And,’ Robb adds as he looks at the brokerage’s new owner, Desmond von Teichman (or Des, as folks tend to call him), sitting across from us at the boardroom table, ‘our legacy now rests with those who will lead the brokerage into the next decades. With professionalism. Respect. And success.’ He chuckles. ‘Lots of success.’
Something Des knows a lot about already. The owner of Royal LePage Locations North (including Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Thornbury, Meaford, Clearview, Grey Highlands, Creemore and Wasaga), Des was already deep in the real estate game when he and Robb began chatting in 2015 about Des acquiring Guelph. Robb continues: ‘Des is what this brokerage needs right now: someone who can drive the business forward with innovative methods grounded in online tools. Tools I know – and care to know – little about at this stage in my career.’
‘Robb has taught me so much during this ownership transition,’ Des is quick to add. ‘About managing people. And conflict resolution. And especially about the unique dynamics – social, cultural, political – of the Guelph community. What I bring to the table,’ he adds, ‘is a firm grasp of the use of technology in real estate to make it easier for our realtors to serve the community. After all, my primary role as a broker is to help my realtors do their jobs better and more efficiently so they, in turn, can help their clients buy and sell their homes.’
Like building a much more robust, intuitive website, for example – user-friendly on the front and back ends. And a more comprehensive, strategic use of social media. ‘Brokerages are becoming increasingly adept at using social media to drive their brands,’ Des observes, ‘and encouraging their realtors to do the same. It’s not technology for technology’s sake,’ he adds. ‘It’s technology used strategically as a means to an end – as a tool to advance the realtors’ business and enhance their clients’ experience.’
Robb is smiling, and I ask what he’s thinking about. ‘I’m remembering how little technology was used when I sold the brokerage to Des,’ he says. Des grins and nods in recognition as Robb continues: ‘Just paper and a pen. As I recall, the entire deal was scrawled on a paper napkin over lunch at Buon Gusto [an Italian restaurant in downtown Guelph].’
‘And signed there, too. Which is fitting, really,’ Des adds, ‘because at the end of the day, transactions are about people sitting down and reaching an agreement – together. Technology isn’t replacing this fact – not yet, at least. It’s just making some things easier. More efficient. Which, in turn, leads to better value for everyone.’
Robb leans back in his chair and exhales. I imagine he’s recalling his long career, and the brokerage he has nurtured and has now handed over to Des. Again I probe, ask him what he’s thinking. He pauses, and then replies: ‘It’s taken me a long time to figure this business out. And I’ve done it. And I’m content to be leaving all that I’ve built in Des’ capable hands.’ He smiles, again, nodding at his successor. ‘Content because I’m pretty sure this guy’s got it figured out already.’