Partnership based on 'total trust' fundamental to @properties success
Co-CEOs Michael Golden and Thad Wong have worked together for 26 years, starting out as agents before building the Chicago-based brokerage.
- One of the top brokerages by sales volume, @properties has around 5,000 agents concentrated in the Chicago area, but their reach extends across the U.S. and globally.
- The company's acquisition of Christie's International Real Estate in 2021 has increased their presence in the luxury sector, an area they will continue to grow.
- "Our goal as entrepreneurs is to beat the market and beat the competition irrelevant of the market conditions,” said Wong.
Editor's note: Each year, the Swanepoel Power 200 recognizes the most powerful and influential leaders in residential real estate. In this series of SP 200 Inside Look interviews, we're diving deeper and learning about these top leaders' aspirations and accomplishments, and the opportunities they see in the year ahead.
Sometimes, a partnership just clicks.
Michael Golden and Thad Wong began their business partnership like many in the industry do — connecting as agents in the mid-1990s, then spending a lot of time in the car together going to listings. Their common vision and ease of working together led them to found Chicago-based @properties in 2000, where they share the CEO title.
It's not a typical partnership. In 26 years, the founders haven't had any disagreements about money, and their 50-50 split in ownership isn't spelled out in a complicated contract, but instead is based on a verbal acknowledgement of what they want to accomplish.
"I think fundamentally what makes this work is total trust," Golden said. "We've always trusted that each of us has had the best interest of the company and partnership in mind."
The two take a divide-and-conquer approach, playing to each others' strengths. Wong is more the face of the company, recruiting agents and business, while Golden handles more of the operations, working with the company's finance and operations staff.
Acquiring companies, teams to expand their scope
At World Properties, which includes the Christie's International Real Estate network, Nest Realty and Ansley Real Estate, as well as partnerships with title and mortgage companies, has steadily added some high-powered teams during this real estate reset.
Christie's, for example, in the past year has partnered with market-leading affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta, as well as several international brokerages. On Feb. 1, Oceano Homes on the island of St. Martin became the latest to join the Christie's International Real Estate network.
@properties' steady growth has led to a jump in the Swanepoel Power 200 rankings for Golden and Wong. The partners are 17th on the list this year, up five spots from 2022.
'We've always grown in a downturn'
Having worked side by side through a few real estate cycles, Golden and Wong have learned that companies can benefit during a downturn in the market. The addition of new teams means more market share, so when activity starts picking up again they'll be growing.
"We've always grown in a downturn, we continue to invest, we continue to grow, we're less impacted than other brokerages that have thinner margins," Wong said.
The company has around 5,000 agents, mostly in the Chicago area, but they've expanded to markets across the U.S. as well as internationally. According to T3 Sixty's Real Estate Almanac, the brokerage was the 10th largest in 2022 with a sales volume of more than $21 billion.
Having the Christie's brand name and a long-term license has been a boon for the company.
"Rolling in a new international brand that's world-renowned is a huge value proposition increase for us in the luxury sector, so we're really looking to grow that part of the market," Wong said.
Don't blame the market
The founders believe the company is able to continue growing despite the slower market because they focus on long-term goals.
Golden emphasized that thinking long term — and responding with confidence instead of fear — is especially crucial in the current market.
"A lot of people make knee-jerk reactions during a downturn, and they do things that hurt themselves," Golden said, noting that too many firms make cuts across the board. "You have to be very thoughtful, especially in a business like ours when you are making cost cuts, because it drastically affects your agent base. If you disenfranchise your agents and they leave, then you are just going to have to cut more things."
And for newer real estate leaders who haven't experienced a down market before, Wong advises a forward-looking mindset.
"If you're in a psychology of blaming the market for your circumstances, that means you're not beating the market," Wong said.
"If you're not beating the market, you're average. Our goal as entrepreneurs is to beat the market and beat the competition irrelevant of the market conditions."
Write to Dave Gallagher.