Family, Legacy, Residuals: The Trembinski Family Story

A commentary by Laura Roussel, Central Coordinator, US Divisional Presidents, EXIT Realty Corp. International

Recently, Tami Bonnell and I visited with Rob Trembinski and Kristen Trembinski, son and daughter of Terry Trembinski, founder of EXIT Realty Lake Superior in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  Terry suffered a stroke in January of 2012 and we wanted to hear firsthand what it has been like stepping in to help their father with the business during his illness and how it has changed both Terry’s life and theirs.

Rob and Kristen TrembinskiTerry Trembinski is a real estate rock star in Ontario. He is one of those guys who everyone knows or knows of him. He has been actively involved in the Real Estate industry over the past 35 years including serving as President of the local Real Estate Board in 1983, and holding various positions with the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), including serving as President of the 37,000 member Association. He was the first President of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) from northern Ontario. In addition he served on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).  One of his proudest moments was when he received the Ambassador Award from EXIT Realty Corp. International in 2007.  “Terry is a majority in any crowd.  His warmth and engaging personality can win over anyone.  He is one of EXIT’s finest, a champion in all he does and an absolute pleasure to work with.  He has been a tremendous promoter and enthusiast for EXIT from day one.” says Joyce Paron, President of EXIT Realty’s Canadian Division.

Terry TrembinskiTerry, a lifelong resident of Sault Ste. Marie, (affectionately known as the Soo), opened EXIT Realty Lake Superior there in April 2000.  Terry immediately understood that the EXIT system was real estate reinvented and saw the advantages it provided to real estate professionals.  The first EXIT franchise to be opened in Northern Ontario, EXIT Realty Lake Superior quickly grew to one of the most productive offices in the area.  “Dad was always a huge EXIT supporter and talked about EXIT every chance he got,” stated Kristen.

Rob and Kristen both said that their parents encouraged them to go to college and a get a degree and they did just that. Kristen graduated from the University of Ottawa with an honors degree in Commerce.  In 2006 she obtained her real estate license and returned to work in the brokerage for a while before going to the University of Monaco where she obtained her MBA with a specialization in Luxury Management in 2011. Rob completed his degree in Business Administration – Marketing from Lake Superior State University in Michigan in 2004 and then his Masters in Organization Leadership from St. Ambrose University in 2007.  Both Kristen and Rob were pursuing careers outside of Canada with no plans to return to the Soo on a permanent basis.

But fate sometimes throws us a curve ball and for the Trembinski family it came on January 21, 2012.  While in Florida preparing for a cruise, Terry suffered a debilitating stroke which left him paralyzed on his right side and speechless. The prognosis was that he would never be able to walk or talk again.   Kristen and Rob flew down to Florida and they stayed for 2 1/2 weeks before they brought Terry back to Southern Ontario for care and rehabilitation where he remained for almost 8 months.  The facility was 9 hours away from his real estate office.

Kristen, who already had her broker’s license, had temporarily returned to work in the brokerage before her father’s stroke. She immediately pitched in and took charge of running the office. Rob was living in De Pere, Wisconsin where he worked at St. Norbert College.  In May 2012, Rob made the decision to move back to the Soo and help Kristen run the brokerage for their father.  “We had watched how hard our father worked to build this brokerage; it is worth holding on to, to continue the legacy he started,” said Rob.

“Rob and Kristen really took the high road – to move back and run the office for their father – the sacrifices they made to put their family first are inspiring,” said Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty Corp. International.

Several months after Kristen and Rob returned to run the brokerage they were approached about buying the business from their father.  Basically, the only thing they knew about EXIT was what their dad had told them.  Friends and family told them they were crazy to buy it and tried to talk them out of it.  At this point in time Kristen and Rob didn’t fully understand the EXIT Formula and they had some hesitation about their ability to make the office a success. However, they had a very strong desire to keep the business productive for their father’s sake so he would continue to receive his residual income.

During this whole process, the office hadn’t lost a single agent.  Kristen expressed it well when she said, “The team here has been so supportive; they are truly family.”  That word came up again when we asked Terry what EXIT has meant to him.  “EXIT is my second family.  From the big guy [Founder and Chairman, Steve Morris] and everyone at head office to my office, we are all like family. We are a family who does business together.”

Rob and Kristen decided to attend EXIT’s Broker/Owner Training in Toronto. After that training there was no doubt that they could and should buy the brokerage.  As Rob put it, “It is a no brainer.  It’s never easy when your number one asset [Terry] walks out the door, but we were determined to succeed.  With the EXIT business model and the support they provide their franchises, we knew we could do it.”

Terry did very well in real estate, but like so many REALTORS, he never really planned for retirement. He enjoyed life and his ”big boy” toys, but thankfully with the EXIT Formula of single-level residuals, a retirement plan was already in place. Slowly and with lots of therapy, grit and determination, Terry has made remarkable progress and is now talking and walking again.  And now with his residuals and the sale of the franchise, he has a very solid retirement income.   Terry said, “I never thought I would stop working any time soon, but I had to, and my residuals have become my income.  Even when I was in the hospital, I was getting paid over and over.  My friends asked me how I was still getting paid and my answer to them – RESIDUALS.”

“Kristen and Rob have risen to the occasion and it is going to be wonderful, but it was a huge sacrifice for them,” said Tami.  When asked what it has meant to him to have his kids continue the legacy he created, Terry answered, “I’m so lucky and so happy that they wanted to step in like they did.  They are doing really, really well!  I am so proud of them, and love them very, very much.”

Throughout our conversation, these words kept coming up, almost as “hash tags”: family, EXIT, legacy, residuals, high road, sacrifice, honor, love, determination. Forget about game changer, let’s talk about life changer!

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