Becoming one of REP’s “Top 100 Real Estate Agents in Canada” doesn’t just happen overnight…and the journey ain’t always pretty.
For Joe Conlon, Mitchell Deslippe, Mark Eugeni, Paul Germanese, and Brady Thrasher, that distinction has been earned the hard way; through personal sacrifice, sleepless nights, and by rolling with the punches.
Even after years of ups and downs, these agents are ready to go another round: fighting stereotypes, fighting burnout, and fighting for their clients in one of the most competitive markets they’ve ever seen.
Joe Conlon is no stranger to the grind, or the missteps that come along with it.
“Most people in this business fail because they don’t hang in long enough to make it through their mistakes,” he says. When he started as an agent nearly a decade ago, Conlon admits he didn’t know much about houses.
“I never owned a home; I was only 22,” he explains. “I didn’t even have my own car yet; I had a 12-seater conversion van that I borrowed from my parents. I would hide it around the corner from open houses so people wouldn’t see me getting out of it.”
Conlon says that his inexperience and his age lead to a lot of rejection early on in his career. It took him over six months to get his first sale.
“I was getting the shit kicked out of me,” he recalls. “There’s so much rejection in the beginning.”
As his knowledge and confidence grew, Conlon began making a name for himself; eventually giving up his two part-time jobs and delving into the industry full-time. Soon he was hosting multiple open houses each weekend, zig-zagging across town and writing deals around the clock. But while his career was skyrocketing, so were his stress and anxiety levels. By 2017, he had hit a wall.
“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I was actually in a full burnout,” he recalls, sharing that he became so overwhelmed, he took off for a week to his family cottage and left his cell phone behind.
“I literally threw my phone in a drawer,” he says. “I just completely checked out.”
When he returned, a conversation with his broker of record made him realize that he needed a team if he wanted to successfully balance his work life and personal time.
“Once you delegate to a team, that’s how you scale your success. If you look at the guys in this group, we all have help.”
The local “Top 100” agents also offers support to each other, Conlon says, despite the fact that they all work for different firms.
“We really lean on one another,” he says, sharing that the group trades tips on everything from how to balance their schedules to how to better service their clients.
“There are a lot of people who look at us as like shady salespeople and it’s not who we are,” he says. “If you look at one commonality between the five of us, it’s that we all actually give a shit and we take care of our people.”
And in an ultra-competitive market, that relationship between agent and client has become more critical than ever. While helping people find their dream home is important, Conlon says sometimes losing deals is the best course of action.
“My job isn’t always to help you win, but to make sure you don’t overpay,” he explains. “I don’t want you to pay eighty thousand more than the house is worth; my job is to keep you safe.”
Conlon says that integrity and resilience are the reasons why his career continues to thrive.
“You don’t just get here by luck; there’s a lot of sacrifice that comes with it,” he says. “It’s not easy getting to these places without really pushing and going through what most people just don’t have the stomach to do.”
Addicted to the Battle
“There’s an unglamorous side to the job,” agrees Mitchell Deslippe. “There’s a reason why some of the top guys are where they’re at; they’re willing to deal with the uncomfortable stuff sometimes.”
They’re also willing to ensure their clients remain top priority, which Deslippe says sometimes comes at the expense of their personal lives. He sees his career as a lifestyle more than a job, and maintaining round the clock availability means forgoing time with friends and family.
“You do miss out on a lot of things; it’s just part of it,” he explains. “When you get to a level where you’re as busy as we are, you almost have to make your personal life an appointment.”
With the fast paced nature of current market, the job continues to intensify. There’s a lot of pushback, but Deslippe admits it’s the part of the job he loves the most.
“It’s a grind out there every day. You’re going to battle for your clients, you’re going to battle for your job. The five of us, I think we’re almost addicted to the battle itself.”
Deslippe says while each of the realtors has their own unique style, there is one common trait shared by all that makes them stand apart from the rest: diligence.
“I think that’s why we stand out. It’s so easy to be average, but if you just work that much harder for each client, your business will continue to grow,” he says.
The group also continues to work hard to dispel misconceptions about their industry, notes Deslippe.
“We’re constantly fighting that scum bag, dirt ball salesmen persona,” he laughs. “These top guys are not that at all. They’re all respectable people.”
Although he knows how cliché it sounds, Deslippe says they really do treat their clients like family.
“We’re not about the transaction; we’re completely about the relationship,” he says. “We’re guiding people through one of the biggest financial decisions of their life, and at the same time there’s a huge emotional aspect to it as well and we’re definitely sensitive to that.”
Juggling those emotions while giving sound advice and remaining on top of an ever-evolving industry can be a challenge at times, but the 30-year old broker says he feels very fortunate to have found his path so early on in life.
“It definitely comes with some mental strain, but it’s worth it. When you love the job so much, it doesn’t feel like work,” he says. “Real estate is what I know, all I know, it’s my love, it’s my career and I’m just getting started.”
Mark Eugeni also considers himself fortunate to be thriving in such a demanding industry. As a 20-year veteran, he has seen many agents quickly become overwhelmed.
“I’ve seen a lot of turnover over the years,” he says. “The first few years of real estate are very challenging; it can be a huge sacrifice for time and family and on yourself.”
How has Eugeni managed to avoid a burnout himself?
“Not easily,” he laughs. “In the beginning, you’re running around so much; lots of late nights, lots of early mornings. Seven days a week. It’s still like that some days; you’re always go, go, go.”
Over the years, the emotional side of the business has also tested his resolve.
“The industry has been extremely satisfying and enjoyable for me, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come without hard times,” he recalls. “I’ve been through amazing markets like what we’re seeing right now, but I’ve been through really difficult ones as well.”
He cites the 2008 financial crisis as one of the most challenging points in his career.
“That was probably one of the toughest periods of my life. Going into a family’s home and someone lost their job and they’re about to lose their house. You just want to help them as much as you can, but the market wasn’t what it is today. It would take months and months to sell a home.”
Eugeni says that although those were tough times, the lessons he took from that period were invaluable.
“I learned so much about the industry and what it takes to sell a home in good times and bad.”
Now, with today’s market moving at lightning speed, Eugeni says he’s still learning; striving to find an equilibrium between being accessible to his clients and taking time to unplug.
The time management aspect has always been one of the trickiest things to get a hold of, he says.
“If you’re a people pleaser, which I think most of us in this industry are, you get definitely stretched thin in many ways,” he explains. “It’s in my DNA that I don’t like to disappoint people; you want to make them happy so you go above and beyond and you don’t want to say no.”
Having the other “Top 100” agents to lean on for advice has also helped Eugeni continue to provide his clients with superior service while still making time for his personal life.
“That’s what’s great about us five guys. We all have teams that we need and rely on every day, but we know what the other guy is going through. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. We have similar mindsets of how we like to run our businesses and we like to ensure the industry is upheld in a high standard.”
Getting it Done
Teamwork has been the saving grace for Paul Germanese as well, who credits his colleagues with helping him maintain his high level of service while balancing a busy home life.
“I had to create a support system around me so that I wouldn’t miss anything,” he says. “Once I had kids, everything changed for me and I knew I needed a team.”
As a child, Germanese recalls once seeing his father Joe have to choose between work and home life. During a busy period at work, Joe was forced to miss his kids’ school Christmas concert.
“He went in the next day and quit. I remembered that my whole life; he never missed anything after that. That one time was one time too many for him.”
While Germanese manages to be home for those important family moments, he also makes sure he’s with his clients through every step of their buying or selling experience.
“In the beginning I worked 9 to 9 everyday just trying to be there for every single moment of every transaction. That’s the way I liked to do it; I still like to do it that way.”
Sometimes that means taking calls at home and fighting about a washer and dryer on a Friday night while you’ve got a kid in your arms, he laughs.
“We just get it done. It’s not pretty, but that’s what we signed up for and it comes with the territory.”
Germanese says clients are very understanding of the work-life balance, especially when they know their best interests are always top of mind.
“When the intensions are good and people know they are, that’s the secret sauce right there: actually giving a shit,” he explains. “We come from a place of service and whatever the client needs we make it happen, sometimes at the sacrifice of what’s going on in our own life and that happens 24-7.”
That dedication to the business is what Germanese believes sets him and the other top realtors apart from the rest.
“These four guys are great to work with; they have the passion, they know it’s about the client, and they just get it,” he says.
After fourteen years in the business, Germanese says he’s found that having the right people around him has made all the difference; even if he still likes to burn the candle at both ends.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a burnout because I like the mayhem,” he laughs. “I thrive better with mayhem around me. When it’s too quiet, that’s when I start to stress out and try to get that mayhem back in my life.”
Tight Knit Bonds
Brady Thrasher finds calm in that chaos as well.
Even with a busy schedule of selling full-time in Windsor-Essex and maintaining a sales office in Florida, the broker is always seeking out the next big experience.
“I don’t know if that’s really healthy,” he laughs. “I’m always looking for new things to stress over. I’m always wondering ‘what’s next?’”
Like the others, Thrasher’s success has been predicated on an innate drive to achieve the best results for his clients, even to the detriment of his mental wellbeing.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the sold signs; a lot of stress, a lot of late nights. There are a ton of things you have to sacrifice,” he acknowledges.
If you’re not willing to make those sacrifices or if you don’t have people on your team who can support you, you will be the reason your clients fail in this market, he says.
“I hear a lot of people say, ‘it’s a great time to be in real estate’ and it is, but it’s also a battle,” he explains. “The days are full of heartache and a lot of casualties from lost deals. There are a lot of emotions involved.”
Every day is a different fight, Thrasher says, noting that in his ten year career, he’s never seen anything like what is currently happening with real estate across North America.
“You’re a part of the emotion and the war that goes on. Now you’re dealing with so many different variables that could put people in a very bad position financially. You have to be so diligent when you’re representing people.”
Trust is so important, he says, especially in a market full of bidding wars and high stakes.
“You build these super tight knit bonds with your buyers and sellers. You’re like a samurai; you’ll jump on a sword for them because you get so connected with them.”
Those genuine relationships are also the key to a long-lasting career.
“In this industry, you’ve got to be great with people. You have to be authentic. If you aren’t, people are just going to know you as the suit-wearing asshole with his picture on a bus bench,” he laughs.
His relationship with the other agents in the group is built on that same premise.
“We learn a lot from each other and we’re all open to sharing ideas. There’s nothing that we hide from each other; we know we’re better together.”
Thrasher says he also knows he’s better when he’s able to step back from all the chaos and spend time with the people who matter most to him: his family.
“I do take a lot of time for my kids and my wife. As busy as I am, that’s something I’m not willing to compromise on,” he says. “I still want to be a human and a father and a role model.”