Dave Wallace moved to Canada from California a decade ago, after the 2008 U.S. housing crash. “The real estate market came to a grinding halt,” he says. “I had a lot of green and sustainable building experience, including building LEED-certified communities, so I was attractive in the Canadian labour market.” When he packed his bags, there was one thing he was sure to bring with him: a desire to develop the kind of long-term relationships he’d built his career on stateside.
That commitment made him a natural fit to become chief operating officer at Ottawa’s Regional Group, a company started by Len Potechin in 1958 and presently headed by CEO Steve Gordon. Over the past 60 years, Regional Group has grown into a multi-billion-dollar business that combines residential and commercial property development and management. Now in its third generation of family management, Regional Group appealed to Wallace because he saw in it a business built on solid relationships. In the high-stakes world of real estate, that matters.
Why? Because a client who trusts you is more likely to refer you to other customers and suppliers that can benefit the business. Wallace and his team leverage that goodwill by soliciting referrals from the company’s long-standing partners—whether they’re community organizations or investors—when putting together new deals. The goal is to get a more comprehensive understanding of whom the firm should work with. “When you get into business with people, what you’re seeking is alignment of vision, purpose and values,” he says. “That’s the deciding factor in how we enter into relationships. We really want people who are like-minded.”
Determining a fit between companies requires proactive work—after all, in this line of work, there’s no such thing as a “referral hotline.” But in Wallace’s experience, the outreach yields far more fruitful partnerships. “If you were going to a restaurant, would you rely on Yelp or someone you trust who’s already been there?” he asks. “We ask someone how their experience has been, and if we should work with this company. It’s a relationship-centric way to do things.”
In Wallace’s view, this commitment creates a virtuous circle—one that is easy to build on for new business. “We create a great structure for a partnership, create a great opportunity, work on it together, have it be successful, then do it again,” he says. And Regional Group is definitely doing something right: In 2018, the company generated its highest gross revenue and profitability ever.