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Creativity in the Work Place

My City Was Gone

In a few weeks, I will be taking part in one of the city’s biggest events. Come Up To My Room, or CUTMR, is a wonderful art event. It is an opportunity for budding artists and designers to get exposure. The event started very simply but in the nine years that it has been around, it has become mainstream and is now one of the opening events to the Toronto International Design Show. The organizers of the show are hard at work putting catelogues together and getting media packages arranged. As part of the CUTMR blog, I was asked to answer a few questions and I thought it would be fun to post the long version of those answers here as much of what I talk about is related to how I use creativity in the work place. Don’t forget to check out for more information.

Q. How do you see your CUTMR installation/project fitting in to your larger practice as an artist, architect or designer?

A. On a daily basis, I run one of the more successful real estate offices in the city so I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an artist.  However, my ability to manage offices and people has increased since I started dedicating more time to my craft.  In many ways the two are inextricably linked. The act of creating my sculptures involves several steps. First there is the conceptualizing, then the planning, the collecting and the laying out of materials, testing the process, preparation and final assembly.  The overall theme of my work to date has been the collection of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of individual items and putting them together to create something new.  When I am at the office, I essentially do the same thing. I bring together people and ideas with the hope of building a cohesive group within a successful hub. To accomplish any measure of achievement in business, you have to apply the same orderly logic. It is simply impossible to jump into something without the benefit of a well thought out plan.

When I was given the task of building the newest office for my company, I set out to create a truly flagship environment. It was important to establish a certain tone early. It had to be visually appealing and blend in well with the community, but most importantly, it had to foster creativity and a genuine sharing of ideas by the people that worked there. Our business is undergoing a fundamental shift. More young people are choosing real estate as a career and they come with a new approach and a fresh outlook. They utilize social media and are driven by highly visual input. It was important to build this shift into the equation and luckily I have a management team behind me that has given me a great deal of freedom. While the company I work for has been around for over 80 years, it was important to show the public that we were hip, relevant and leading edge.

Q. How do you see your practice expanding over the next five years?

A. I am a visual person. I am inspired by the shapes and colours of what is around me. I pick up on things I see on TV or in a magazine and I am an avid follower of pop culture. I am able to translate the trends that I see into my work and my art. In the foreseeable future, I will continue to look for the visual clues that drive us emotionally. I will test out my theories through my art and sculpture and continue to apply the processes and outcomes to my business life. I live by the motto that if I am not moving forward then I’m moving backward. There is no status quo.  I want to use more unconventional materials in my sculptures and I don’t want to be limited to how far I can push the envelope.  

Q. CUTMR has really expanded from a design show to be a fertile exhibition for all kinds of artists, designers and creative people. Help us come up with a new name for the kinds of makers that participate in CUTMR

A. One of the things I love about CUTMR is that it started as a grass roots/alternative event.  Through the efforts of all involved, it has gained popularity and become more main stream however I think it is important to remember those roots because at the end of the day, it is events like this that help budding artists and designers break out.  I hope that CUTMR will continue to be exactly what it is- a fertile ground for creativity.


Fire a Client? Yes!

fire a client blogLast week, one of my agents called me to say that she was preparing the paperwork to terminate a listing she had because the client was simply unreasonable. The client had given my agent a bottom line on what she was prepared to accept and while the number was a little on the “high” side, it was not unreasonable. After 40 days on the market, multiple open houses, and countless money and time put into the listing, my agent negotiated an offer that was exactly what the client had required. Take a wild guess at what happened next; the client turned it down. By the way, my agent was the third in a series of listing agents the client had hired. The property had been on and off the market for many months. So, I thought it might be time to look at when you should consider severing ties with a client whether they are buying or selling. For straight forward answers to this question, I talked to several of our top agents in the company.  In no particular order, here is their list;

  1. Unrealistic expectations.  Client wants a house within a 10 minute drive of downtown Toronto. They  want  a 2 acre lot, pool and 2 car garage for under $375,000. Or how about the client who will never be satisfied with the offer you bring them.
  2. Clients who micromanage agents. They think they know more than you and are overly demanding of your time.
  3. Personality. Instinctively you know they are going to be hard to get along with. It could be language difficulties, philosophical or cultural differences, or maybe, after a few weeks of working together you realize the client is…. a real jerk.
  4. Buyers who won’t go into bidding wars. Well, let’s face it, in a seller’s market, you are going to get into bidding wars. A seasoned pro knows how to negotiate in a multiple offer situation. A buyer who doesn’t want to compete, simply believes they will be paying too much.
  5. Seller wants you to commit fraud. Trust me, this happens more than you think. Recently one of our agents went on a listing presentation on a house that had expired. Our agent knew of serious structural issues but the seller had covered them up. When questioned, the seller simply replied that the issues had been corrected but couldn’t recall how they had been remedied. Strange.
  6. The Grandma Syndrome. The little old widow who is looking for a condo, you drive them around for weeks. You always pick them up on the same day and time, you look at a few places but for the most part you are playing chauffeur while they pick up groceries or stop at the drug store.
  7. Looky-loos. Also referred to as Real estate junkies. They are just out to satisfy their curiosity. They probably will never buy unless they win the lottery.
  8. The horizon buy. The client is planning to buy in two years but wants to start looking now.

So how can you weed out the bad clients? Start with a structured and in depth client interview. This is an absolutely critical tool that we all should be adapting. Ask pertinent information. Set expectations early. Lastly, know when to walk away. If you feel that there is a glimmer of hope but something might happen, don’t be afraid to refer the client to someone else in your office. You could potentially pick up a small referral without doing any work.


mark mclean

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