By Jim Adair
Martin Charlwood knows he has big shoes to fill in his new role as CEO of Charlwood Pacific Group’s real estate division, which includes Century 21 Canada, Centum Financial Group and Real Canadian Property Management. He spent six years preparing to take over from Don Lawby, the much-respected 35-year veteran executive who has retired.
“Don and I spent a lot of time doing our cross-country tours, including our national convention and awards events,” says Charlwood. “I’m not a stranger to the business. I know the people and they know me, but now I’m taking it to the next level.”
Charlwood has worked in partnership with his father; group founder U. Gary Charlwood and his brother Christopher since the late 1980s. The group also owns Uniglobe Travel International, where Martin was president and COO.
He says the departure of Lawby is “bittersweet, for the family and for the company and all the brokers and agents who know Don so well. But he’s done such a great job that he deserves the time to cool his jets a little bit.”
Former senior vice-president of operations Brian Rushton has been promoted to executive vice-president, which means he is responsible for the “day-to-day management of the brand, and specifically for setting up a competitive technological direction and managing the growth of our organization,” says Charlwood.
Century 21 Canada was launched in Canada almost 40 years ago. It currently has nearly 9,000 sales reps in 400 offices across the country.
“We plan to continue to grow the brand strategically, through a strong emphasis on broker recruitment – helping our brokers get new agents and to get experienced agents to come from other brands,” says Charlwood. “We’ll also have a continued emphasis on new franchise sales, and on helping our existing brokers in the mergers and acquisitions side of the business.”
Century 21 Canada licenses the brand from Realogy, which owns it in the United States. The U.S. company spends a lot of money on consumer advertising at big sporting events, which provides a spin-off benefit in Canada. As a result, Century 21 Canada has been able to put its marketing dollars toward improving its consumer website.
“We’re using that technology to enable our brokers to be better recruiters and to make their agents more productive and grow the business from an organic perspective,” says Charlwood.
He says the emphasis on technology is catching the attention of a younger generation – the “millennials” – and that is “bringing the sex appeal back into the real estate agent and broker business. We’re seeing younger people approaching Century 21 because it’s becoming the home for the cool, edgy, technologically savvy real estate agent.”
He says real estate is a great profession for young people to consider. “You can get into the business with very few start-up costs except for your licence, and you don’t need to buy the houses to sell them, so you don’t need big working capital. You can be in business for yourself and your earning opportunities are unlimited.”
Charlwood says he is also encouraged by the growth of the Centum organization. “A couple of years back, we had one location that did more than $100 million in placed mortgages in any given year. By the end of 2013, we had six locations at over $100 million in mortgages.” Centum Interstate Mortgages in Brampton, Ont., under the leadership of owners Davinder Bouns and Gupreet Samra, grew by more than $200 million last year and placed $320 million in mortgages.
He says the goal for Real Canadian Property Management is to have a nationwide network within the next two years.
Meanwhile, Charlwood is getting ready for the next awards events. The company just learned that for the third year in a row, Century 21 Percy Fulton in Toronto, under the leadership of Clare Fulton, has been named the No. 1 office in the world-wide Century 21 network.
The team of Don Goodale and Brad Miller from Century 21 Miller Real Estate in Oakville, Ont. has been named the top team internationally.
Don Lawby was known for his blunt and outspoken opinions on the real estate industry issues of the day. Charlwood says the company will continue that tradition and “will be very active and vocal when we see a point that needs to be made.”