By Christina Luis, Senior Vice President, EXIT Realty Corp. International
I’m not sure anyone sees themselves starting their “foreverjob” at 18. I certainly didn’t, but soon after my fateful interview with a serious-looking, no-nonsense (dare I say intimidating) gentleman on the fourth floor of a real estate office in the High Park area of Toronto, something told me that EXIT Founder and Chairman, Steve Morris was going to be a major influence in my life. Although I didn’t know it, he had me doing affirmations during that interview already, asking weird questions like, “Are you coachable?” (Was I signing up for a sporting event?) We talked about family. Having been with my boyfriend (now my husband of 25 years) for only a short time, I hadn’t thought about it much, but I knew I wanted kids. I emphatically told him, “Three – two girls and a boy.” Guess what? I have two daughters and a son. I could bore you with a dozen situations where this affirmation principle has impacted my life, but just know that even at that age – a tremendously formative age – I knew he was onto something.
Once Steve decided to launch EXIT, he reached out to me to handle the front desk. I really wasn’t looking to work for another real estate office. The environment was always so cut-throat, and everyone was just out for themselves. However, realizing that Steve was at the helm, I jumped in, knowing that he would encourage and nurture a different atmosphere. The original EXIT head office was near the Toronto airport. Not glamorous, it fit the bill at the time, and we had the best security being located above an old Italian gentlemen’s club. These humble beginnings hold so many wonderful memories for me. At the time, I was the receptionist, graphics department, supplier liaison, corporate records administrator, travel agent, and tended to a never-ending list of jobs that just needed to be done. We were small, but I was busy! And the stories! I’ve been sworn to secrecy with most of the best, but one memorable time Maria Orzakovski, our VP of Operations and I almost called the police on a man sitting in a van in the parking lot for three hours, only to find out it was Sr. VP, Susan Harrison’s husband, David, waiting for her to come out of her job interview with Steve Morris! I’ll also never forget when the towers came down while we were hosting Broker/Owner training. It was all over the news and we had to inform our mainly U.S. attendees what was happening. There are certain things you just never forget.
Moving to our current office was where I saw the opportunity to really carve out a place for myself, and hone in on what I loved to do. I enjoyed organizing events, whether they were trainings, meetings, conferences, or of course our Convention. I loved everything about dealing with the venue, the people, the menus, the décor, the speakers, the sound and lighting, and everything in between. But loving it didn’t mean I was good at it. I harped on Steve (and affirmed in private) to let me do more – which he did, slowly. I learned everything on the job, so he knew I needed to skin my knees a few hundred times before trusting me fully. And I’m glad he did. What you don’t see behind the curtain are the tears, the anxiety, the mistakes, and the self-doubt, but when you’re determined and surrounded by people who support you and want you to succeed, you magically do.
I’ve also made some of the best friendships I could ever hope for. I’ll never forget our 2007 Convention in the unforgettable Colorado Springs. I was in an ornery mood, and it wasn’t just me who noticed it. After a few days of this, both Maria and our long-time friend Amy looked at me and told me I was pregnant. It’s more than just a “colleague” who knows you’re expecting before you do, and they were right. I have an amazing support system at EXIT, and they happen to be yours too! Erika Gileo, Tami Bonnell, and Craig Witt, I can’t tell you how much your love and care through the years has meant to me and my family. It’s simply unheard of that you can forge unbreakable relationships in a corporate setting, yet here we are. Susan Harrison, we know the universe has our backs! Sharron, with one look – we just know things! Joyce, you’re always there with a warm welcome when my children, or anyone for that matter, visits the office or just needs an ear. In truth, everyone at our corporate office, our regional leaders, franchisees and so many of our sales associates hold a tremendously important place in my heart, I just can’t list them all here.
Sadly, after so many years, you end up losing some who helped make you the person you are. Carol Caird, Sr. Vice President, was the first to jump into this EXIT thing with Steve. She was brave, kind, and hard working. She was the first to exemplify that you could be a consummate professional, and still have some fun. Josef Duffner, our original Editor in Chief of the EXIT Achiever (then the EXIT Recruiter) publication, what a joy he brought to the office. His stories were legendary and often had us laughing to the point of tears. And of course, the infamous Bill “The Bald Eagle” Nasby. Whether he referred to you as his little potato or any one of his terms of endearment, he always made whoever he encountered feel special and worthy. He left his mark on so many of us at EXIT and beyond, and in his loving way, left us a special piece of himself with his daughter Erica, beautifully carrying on his life’s work. You see my EXIT Family, from what I can tell, determination, education, and grit will get you on the right path, but without people to guide, advise, or nudge you back into your lane, it would be a very long, lonely, and difficult journey.
We often joke about who has the best job at EXIT, and we all think we have each other beat because of the simple fact that we’re all doing what we love and are meant to do. It takes special vision to thatch that together, and that brings us back to Steve Morris. I, and countless others, owe so much to this visionary. He holds a very special place in my heart, and I will be forever grateful that he took a chance on that young girl in his office so many years ago. So, what do I take from these last 25 years? Three things stand out: it’s all about the company you keep – at home and at work, one of my favorite daily affirmations is “I make good, sound choices.” I don’t belabor making decisions; I know I’ll make the right one. It’s hard to believe something so simple can be so effective. We tend to expect things have to be hard. But they don’t have to be. And finally, EXIT Realty has always been about our people, never about the bank accounts. Whenever a situation arises that warrants a difficult decision, the words always uttered are, “What’s the right thing to do?” How amazing to “grow up” in an atmosphere like that! And yes, I win! I do have the best job!
Read this and other stories in the EXIT Achiever.