Realty Life

How to Lead the Family Business, Guest Chris Alexander

November 28, 2021 Stories and Strategies Season 1 Episode 16
Realty Life
How to Lead the Family Business, Guest Chris Alexander
Show Notes Transcript

Getting into the family business comes with its own challenges.

But when you’re asked to lead the business, which happens to be one of the largest real estate companies, that challenge is taken to the next level.

In this episode of REALTY Life, host Ken McLachlan talks to Christopher Alexander, the President of RE/MAX Canada about stepping up and saying YES!

Connect with Christopher on Twitter @ChrisReMax

Ken can be reached at:

Ken McLachlan (00:09):

Hi everybody, it's Ken McLachlan here, Realty Life Podcast. Today is an exceptional day and most every day is exceptional as we do know. But today I get to talk to a friend of mine, someone that I've known since he was, I'm going to say no, probably not in diapers, but a long time. I'm very proud of him, very proud to be associated with him. Very proud that he is in the position he is in right now. Today. He is the president of RE/MAX Canada. His name is Christopher Alexander. Christopher, welcome to my podcast.

Christopher Alexander (00:45):

Thanks, Ken. Thanks for the lovely introduction too.

Ken McLachlan (00:47):

Yeah, it's so great to have you here. I've watched you for a long time now, and I've been working with you directly for probably three years, I guess

Christopher Alexander (01:00):

Four years, maybe more even. I think it's been about five,

Ken McLachlan (01:03):

No, five years directly, and I couldn't be happier about that. You are a breath of fresh air, and I'm not just blowing smoke up, but you are a breath of fresh air. It's been fun. I know I've challenged you more than you probably like at times, but you know what? We respect and love each other and we have a history. So speaking of that history, you have an interesting history that you have four generations of RE/MAX family stuff, and that must have been glorious, but god damn it must've been hard going through that, living that life and having a family business and ooh, who did you, I mean, you've your grandfather, Frank Posler, who I first met when I first got in this business was the, I guess the president of RE/MAX Canada or whatever, or RE/MAX, Ontario in Canada. But how did you learn? What was it like growing up?

Christopher Alexander (02:00):

Well, I mean, hadn't had a great life and been very fortunate to be surrounded by very successful people from my grandfather, obviously to his partner Walter, my mom, my dad, my sister, my uncle. I would say it was not much different than others. I mean, we had certain perks in life, obviously with that come with being successful, which I'm appreciative of, but being around those people has inspired me to be who I am today, not just at a professional level, but as a person. And I just feel fortunate to have such figureheads close to me through my development years.

Ken McLachlan (02:54):

Yeah. When was the decision that came that you were actually going to get into this leadership position? Because for background, you were an agent working in Parkdale, I think at the very beginning when you first came into this, came into this, did you do mortgaging as well, or no, was your sister

Christopher Alexander (03:11):

 No Leah did that. Yeah.

Ken McLachlan (03:12):

But you were an agent for two, three years or whatever. I don't know how long, but when did you

Christopher Alexander (03:20):

Yeah, I mean I started getting my real estate license in university and I fit after I graduated. Took me about six months to complete the courses after that. So I started selling pretty much right out of school. And then about four and a half years in there were our longtime franchise salesperson moved to Europe to self franchisees RE/MAX Europe and RE/MAX Ontario had hired two people and they weren't working out. And Walter and my mom asked if I'd be interested

Ken McLachlan (03:59):

To, your mom is Pamela Alexander. Yeah,

Christopher Alexander (04:01):

She's was the former CEO of RE/MAX,Integra. Yeah. They asked if I would be interested in the role, and I went back and forth. I actually didn't think it would have an opportunity to be at the region.

Ken McLachlan (04:15):

That's a big decision, Chris, at that time because all of a sudden you have your independence of being a realtor and all, you're jumping right into the family business, which is an honor and big shoes to fill, and all of a sudden this spotlight is on you different. How did you process it? What happened?

Christopher Alexander (04:32):

Well, what I'd say is when I was selling real estate, I thought I really loved it, but when I came to the region and what is involved in franchising, I found what I was truly passionate about. And that is really growing this brand and the strategy behind franchising and talking to very successful people and broker owners like yourself, Ken. And working with accomplished successful business owners was always very exciting. And then I always believed, which I know you do too, that this is the best brand you can be a part of, especially if you're a professional and serious about real estate as a business. And I got very passionate and excited about showing people that. So if you're with another brand or you're independent, it just kind of gushed out of me that I wanted to show you why you needed to be with RE/MAX,.

Ken McLachlan (05:28):

That's your grandfather, isn't it? Yeah, I mean all them, but your granddad, Frank was that guy. He was like over the top. I love him. Right. Old school, sell, sell, sell and deliver value in that. And that probably oscillated to you a lot, that type of thing, just being around him.

Christopher Alexander (05:49):


Ken McLachlan (05:50):

Walter too. I mean he speak to

Christopher Alexander (05:52):

Yeah, both of 'em. I mean, they're two sales Gods legends, whatever you want to call them, but they're legendary, especially in the real estate space. But Frank, especially my grandfather, he could sell snow to an Eskimo, and he taught me very early that in sales, the sales begin, the sale begins when the customer says no. And there are a lot of people in our system today that will tell you that when I was in franchise sales, I just never gave up. But they would say, I'm really happy where I am, appreciate the opportunity, but I'm just not interested. And it's like, okay, well I'll call this guy back in 10 days and whatever. Just kept at it,

Ken McLachlan (06:36):

Just selling, doing the whole thing and making it happen. And Walter had a different influence on you, I'm sure.

Christopher Alexander (06:42):

Yeah, it was great. The dynamic of that partnership is really special. It still exists today because they still own RE/MAX Europe. But talk about two people that if they were on a sinking ship, they'd save each other before their families.

Ken McLachlan (07:03):

It's kind of weird. No,

Christopher Alexander (07:05):

It's true.

Ken McLachlan (07:06):

I get what you're saying though. Yeah.

Christopher Alexander (07:07):

Anybody listening, if you're in a partnership, they always said that we always had the same goals. We always have each other's back. And that's why what made it so special? Well,

Ken McLachlan (07:18):

They always demonstrated that they wanted more for their partner than they did for themselves. And I know that. And that was very clear from day one that I got involved with them hearing that. And I'm interested in seeing your development and understanding how you dealt with all that, because they're big shoes to fill. Your mother is incredible, really a good friend of mine, and we look up to her a lot and listen, they're big shoes to fill, and all of a sudden you're thrown in there and this is an iconic family. It's a family owned business, and all of a sudden you're at the helm of it. And that's a big challenge. And how did you deal with it? How did you deal with the, and you did with it dealt with it really well, by the way, but I'm just curious and the journey of it.

Christopher Alexander (08:14):

Well, I have, so the franchising I did, I was successful in it. And it kind of happened by fluke that I became regional director, which really started my path to leadership in the company. And I can thank you for that, Ken, for hiring my predecessor. But when that happened, I immediately put my hand up and said, I'd be interested in this if you would, they would be interested.

Ken McLachlan (08:47):

So you went and introduced yourself as being that candidate for it?

Christopher Alexander (08:50):

 Yeah, I told them, I mean, have to give my uncle his credit too, because he really convinced me that I could do it. And then it took me about four and a half months to convince Walter and my mom. Yeah,

Ken McLachlan (09:02):


Christopher Alexander (09:03):

I was worthy of the shot. And so how did I deal with it? I mean, I remember the first six months was drinking from a fire hose, and I just have to thank the incredible people that were around me, not just Walter and Pamela, but my team, Lisa Clark. Many of you might know her name. I

Ken McLachlan (09:30):

Think Brownie was there too, wasn't

Christopher Alexander (09:32):

It? Yeah, Dave Brown and Nancy Sears, even Gurinder and I would catch up every now and then. They were just always very supportive. And I felt this kinship with the group there that I actually felt they wanted me to be successful at the role, which was very inspiring in itself. And I guess what I would say is I was never afraid to ask questions. I was never afraid of asking a dumb question. And if I needed to think about a decision or I knew I needed to consult with certain people, I would just put the breaks on a situation. And I guess my message is don't be afraid to do that, to pause.

Ken McLachlan (10:18):

Well, I think what you do extremely well also is you're an incredible listener. And I don't know if you personally developed that skill, but I think it might be more natural to you, and certainly you did develop it from time to time, but you are very good at listening and digesting and not reacting as much. I mean, you've told me a couple things once in a while you reacted to, but that's a story vice versa. Two. I know, I know. But you are an incredible listener and that's important. That's a good leader is listening, I believe. And you do that very well. Thanks Kim. And do that. And being in this iconic family that ran this, I think the numbers, correct me if I'm wrong on this, but 30% of all RE/MAX in the world was run through your family and Walter and you were a big part of it. And all of a sudden this year that changed where they sold their North American operations and you stayed behind purposely. You made a choice, I believe, to stay behind and lead. And now you lead RE/MAX Canada, which needs your leadership because we we're value who you are on that. So you stepped up. So what is that like? Chris, what do you got in front of you?

Christopher Alexander (11:38):

Well, just to roll the tape back a little bit, when the discussion of selling started, that was a big, I'm not going to be totally transparent, was scary. Yeah, big too. It's defined our family for a long time and big change. You have this kind of security blanket on you, which whether you try or don't try for granted,

Ken McLachlan (12:12):

What's your identity, isn't it? I mean, it's a big identity for you guys.

Christopher Alexander (12:15):

Yeah. I think there are people that really are defined by this brand. I always like to think that we weren't that hardcore about it, but let's face it, we were the family, at least in Eastern Canada and part of the us, but for a while, and I was deeply involved in the negotiations and the process of the deal, and it felt like negotiating myself out of a job. It did. But just Adam Contos was very forthright and he said, no, we need you, we you, we want you. And you're not going anywhere because we're in this together. And it was just a big sigh of relief because I love this brand. I love what I do. I love you guys. Ken Hallmark, our broker owners, many of them I have known since I've been in diapers.

Ken McLachlan (13:13):

But you love us more.

Christopher Alexander (13:19):

Really. As I said earlier, I really believe if you are full-time and serious about the real estate business, there is no better organization to be a part of because we're the only one that focuses on those people. And it kind of feels like, damn, I mean, I may need to take it down a notch, but to me it feels like being a missionary sort of, right. You're preaching the gospel.

Ken McLachlan (13:45):

Well, that's what it is, isn't it? I mean, you have to be that. It has to be part of who you are. I mean, that's your family, Chris. I mean that's exactly, and that's beginning with Frank and Walter. That's who they are. That's what they instilled. I mean, I'm just an outsider watching the family. I can't imagine how much of that juice you got by being in that family. Get out there and do it. We're going to grow. It's all part of this and that. And that's just amazing that you had got to live that kind of stuff and you got to be in the position that you actually had the wherewithal to actually absorb that and make it into Christopher Alexander yourself, which is really a compliment to you.

Christopher Alexander (14:26):

Thanks, Ken. No, I, I'm very appreciative and feel very fortunate for the position I'm in. It's all that. So

Ken McLachlan (14:33):

Let's talk about your challenges. What is it that drives you? What gets in the way? What

Christopher Alexander (14:40):

I would say juggling young children.

Ken McLachlan (14:45):

How many do you have, Chris?

Christopher Alexander (14:47):

I got two. I got a four year old and a one year old. And my wife has a business herself and is arguably busier than I am.

Ken McLachlan (14:57):

And she's the better part of you obviously too.

Christopher Alexander (14:59):

Absolutely. Yeah, of course. She's in incredible woman and I owe her a lot because I can guarantee I wouldn't be where I am without her. But yeah, we're both very busy professionals and juggling that can be challenging from time to time. We got to make sure that we carve out time for each other and the family. And we've got a great nanny too. That helps. But I would say that that can be challenging. Yeah. What else is challenging? You know, got people in the system that gave a lot in a previous era, so to speak, who just don't have it anymore. And finding a way to get them to see that is challenging because we've got a duty to the system to make sure that we're improving and continuing and growing and all those things. So that can be a challenge dealing with you all the time. I'm kidding.

Ken McLachlan (15:59):



Because what's the juice with you though? I mean, what is it that really, I mean, you do a great job, you have a great job, you deal with all the stuff that we deal with, but what is it that really is that, oh wow, this is what I really love about it. This is really, I mean, not that selling the brand, I get all that. And I mean that's important, obviously that's what we do. But what is it that really, I mean, do you actually working with these some guys sometimes, or what is it that really drags you out there every day? I

Christopher Alexander (16:30):

Think it's the competitiveness of it all. It's interesting when I play sports or things or board games or anything that's competitive, I don't really care if I lose. But with this stuff, there's just something in me I hate to lose when it comes to our company because it's like it permeates down. And I think, what else Ken? The juice is, I really want what's best for people, really. That's always where I start with is how can we make this a win-win for all parties involved? And you guys make it working with you and Tim and Claudia and all the wonderful people in our network, they get me excited every day.

Ken McLachlan (17:23):

And I can tell you about your competitiveness because I've been lucky to sit beside you at a basketball game. You're a big Raptor fan and I couldn't believe it. I don't know who the hell you were with. You had a friend of yours at that game I saw you with and you almost got kicked out.

Christopher Alexander (17:42):

You can be passionate about basketball. That might be the other thing.

Ken McLachlan (17:46):

But I think they knew you were there and was very interesting to see the passion you had with that and the stuff. And I've seen you exert that passion in our business as well. So it is driven, you are driven to do it, driven to succeed. I think that succeed, I think that really comes from who you are. That's who you demonstrate you are anyway, because you're, you've never been afraid. Chris, and I'm, and part of the whole deal, I've been around for a long time, maybe too long. But one of the things I love about you is that you're not afraid to stand up for what you believe in. You're not afraid. You don't back down and you listen, you argue. We have our arguments that are full blown. But you know what? You listen. You're not afraid to say your point. And I say my point, we usually end the conversation a certain way and then we go on to the next thing. But that's what I love about you. You're not afraid to say what's on your mind. And that's what a true leader does. And you demonstrate that. And I'm excited for your next journey, which is that you're in now is RE/MAX Canada. I mean, you're going to be out there and kick an ass out there in Kelowna, in Vancouver, in Winnipeg. And that's exciting. That's a whole new thing for you. What's that going to be like?

Christopher Alexander (19:07):

Well, it's interesting. People have been asking me, how's the new job? And it's the new same job. So yeah, it's exciting to work for a public company. It's not working for the family. I was looking at it, I'm leaving the nest, but really it's like now I have my own nest.

Ken McLachlan (19:31):

Yeah, that's true.

Christopher Alexander (19:34):

And I, Elton Ash has been incredible. He's the regional VP in Western Canada's been there for a long time. Those people are great. There's an awesome group of broker owners out west. There's going to be changes. I'm already experiencing a lot of them, but I think for a bunch of reasons, I'm just really excited to lead this organization in Canada.

Ken McLachlan (20:03):

What's the stamp, the Chris Alexander's stamp that you're going to put on it? Because everybody has a stamp

Christopher Alexander (20:09):

Growth. I think growth is, and transitioning to the next generation of leaders, those, that'll be my stamp.

Ken McLachlan (20:22):

What makes you afraid, Chris?

Christopher Alexander (20:31):

Not being able to do the right thing, being like this hasn't happened, but it would be uncomfortable if I was in a situation that I couldn't help influence for a positive outcome. That's a good question, Ken. I think it's in the most competitive era of our generation. I think, and Ken, you've been around longer than I have, but it just feels like the market dynamics specifically in Ontario are unbelievably competitive. And I don't want to say I'm afraid. I'm like I, I'm up for the challenge of getting back to an extra level of dominance, call it.

Ken McLachlan (21:28):

And I think that what you will bring to the table and your stamp will be that we're back in the game. We are back in the game in Western Canada and in our brand and stuff like that. You are the right person at the right time to make it happen and really get some energy in it and get that thing going. Again, a bit of a glow because, not that we don't have it, but really the two out there and let's just raise some shit and get things going. Cause that's the RE/MAX, way. The homework way is not be shy about that. And I don't think you're going to do that. You're going to be out there and create some stuff that's going to be really cool, really interesting. That's what I'm excited about when I asked you what you were afraid of, whatever. And it's no accident that you had a tough time answering that question because I, you probably don't have anything you're really afraid of.


Cause you had to dig deep to figure out what the hell's getting in my way, if there anything. But I don't think there's anything that you're afraid of, Chris. I think you're more than able to be up for the cause and to make this happen and have some fun at it and have some laughs and make things grow and do all that stuff. And it's been a blast watching you do this through your life and your young family and how you do it. It's exciting. So this isn't just a commercial for Chris. I wanted people to understand a bit behind the scenes of who you are as a person. And I think what really is coming across is who you are in public is really who you are behind the scenes. No, I don't know you any differently really from being personal with you. And I do get personal with you as a friend, but you're the same guy out there talking to people. And that's really a tribute. I mean, do you see that as well? Are you hiding stuff or

Christopher Alexander (23:18):

I don't wear a mask. I really don't. Well,

Ken McLachlan (23:20):

Maybe no, me,

Christopher Alexander (23:21):

I might let a little looser at home than I would course in, of course in a private or a public function. But no, I don't. I think some great advice I got from a coach that I've worked with is just says, just always be yourself. And I believe that that's who you should be no matter who you are. Hiding behind a mask or trying to be something you're not is a recipe for a disaster because you get exposed and I don't have anything to hide. I don't really care. Take me or leave me. Well,

Ken McLachlan (24:02):

You have a really interesting haircut today, which people can't see, but that's a different story.


But listen, we're nearing the end of this, Chris, this has been a joy for me because it's been just talking on the phone with you and having a conversation. Cause we do this often. We talk and just to check in with each other and that's a privilege for me to have you to have access to it or do that and to talk about what we're doing, what we don't do, what we shouldn't do and all that great stuff. But is there anything that you want to say that really instill in people that there's a lot of agents that would be listening to this, that the difficulties that they have and making a living for their families and what they're up against. What do you have to say to them? What,

Christopher Alexander (24:49):

Well, first of all, Ken, want to, before I answer that, I want to thank you specifically. I mean, we've known each other a long time and yeah, you've been hard on me, but you've been a great mentor for me in a lot of ways. So I just wanted to make sure I get that out there. So thank you. Well, what would I have to say to people is be true to yourself. Success is different to different people. From my own experience, when you find something that you really love, you'll know it. And things become easier.


Just back to my example of selling real estate, it was a great lifestyle. I was making decent money for a 25 year old, but when I started at the region, and that's when I really found out what I was passionate about. The same thing with my wife, dated a lot of girls, met my wife. We were engaged eight months later because I just knew wow, that she was the one. And so yeah, I think it's be true to yourself and it'd be remiss if I didn't instill some of my grandfather's wisdom that's in me. And it's like never give up. If you want something bad enough and you're focused on it and you dream about it and visualize it, you'll get it.

Ken McLachlan (26:13):

Yeah, never give up.

Christopher Alexander (26:15):


Ken McLachlan (26:16):

Christopher Alexander, president of RE/MAX Canada. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to talk with me today to have a conversation about what's going on in your life and the many things that are happening there. I love you. I respect you. I think you're amazing. I can't wait to see the next five, 10 years, what you're going to create with the brand in Canada. It's going to be a great ride. Chris, with you at the helm, I want to thank you for being here

Christopher Alexander (26:42):

Today. Thanks Ken, and love you too, buddy. Thanks for having me.

Ken McLachlan (26:45):

So you've been listening to Realty Life with Ken McLachlan. Chris Alexander, thank you again my friend. This has been wonderful. I'll see you tomorrow. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Sorry to you tomorrow, and thank you everybody for listening. Subscribe. Tell your friends about this podcast. You know what it's all about talking about life and realty life and the connections that we have and making a difference. So have a great day and we'll talk to you very soon.