At family-owned Windermere, relationships are a top priority for 2023
Led by co-presidents OB Jacobi, Jill Jacobi Wood and Geoff Wood, the company continues to grow but strives to retain its family-oriented culture.
- The Seattle-based brokerage is looking to reconnect with its 7,000 agents after the disruptions of the pandemic.
- Windermere is also solidifying its West Coast market share after making a significant acquisition in early 2021.
- The three leaders value the different perspectives each person brings when looking for solutions.
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.
Family-run companies are built on connections, and at Windermere Real Estate, the trio of leaders wants to strengthen relationships and foster a culture of connection in 2023.
The Seattle-based company has been a family operation for more than 50 years and is currently led by three co-presidents: siblings OB Jacobi and Jill Jacobi Wood, and Jill's husband Geoff Wood. Windermere has become a household name in much of the Western U.S. and Mexico, with more than 300 offices and 7,000 agents across 10 states.
The company has spent the past couple of years establishing a bigger footprint, particularly in Northern California after acquiring Lyon Real Estate of Sacramento with its 17 offices and 800 agents in January 2021. In 2020, before the acquisition of Lyon, Windermere posted a sales volume of nearly $41 billion.
"We saw a chance to buy a well-established, well-respected company and did so knowing how much equity there was in the Lyon name and brand. When you allow yourself to think outside the box, there are a lot of opportunities for growth out there," said OB Jacobi in an email.
The company's growth has moved the trio closer to the top of the Swanepoel 200 list of the most powerful people in real estate. The three share the 14th spot on the list in 2023, up two spots from 2022.
Collaborative leadership and shared decision making
While some family-run businesses rely on a divide-and-conquer strategy, the Windermere co-presidents tend to work together to come up with solutions.
"The three of us bring different perspectives to the table, but we work very collaboratively and have a lot of respect for each other," Geoff Wood said. "While we each might focus on different things on any given day, we always make decisions together."
The leaders remain bullish about where the real estate market is going, particularly if interest rates and inflation stabilize. They see opportunities even in a western region where some cities like San Francisco are experiencing price drops.
Regardless of market conditions, Geoff Wood said they have great operators in their offices, allowing them to continue thinking outside the box for new opportunities for growth.
And, said Jill Wood, they're focusing on the direction and health of the company as a whole rather than what the market is doing on a day-to-day basis.
"As a family-run company we believe in giving our employees the flexibility and support they need to have balance in their lives. That's really important to us," Jill Wood said.
Focusing on connections
One of Windermere's top priorities in 2023 is connecting with agents and staff. As was the case at many companies, personal connections took a bit of a hit during the first year or two of the pandemic, and OB Jacobi says it's time to rebuild culture.
Jill Wood said that will involve some creative planning coming out of the pandemic. To get people interested in coming into the office, the company is considering ideas like potlucks, hosting monthly in-person meetings and having "lunch and learns" with compelling speakers and business-critical content that agents won't want to miss.
"Having a meeting on Zoom with 40 people who don't have their cameras on isn't productive or meaningful. It's a good way to share information but it doesn't provide that personal connection," Jill Wood said.
"Our focus this year is on getting people together," said OB Jacobi.
"It's important to remember that the relationships we have within our company are just as important as the ones our agents have with their clients," he said.
Write to Dave Gallagher.