Going into business for yourself is a bold move for most people. Those who have no previous experience in business ownership often find it hard to make the transition from being employees to running their very own company, enterprise, or service. For Sandra Toia-Wilson and her husband Paul Wilson, the transition almost fell into their laps. Today, they maintain a successful company called Ratclifff Mathews Real Estate but that was not always part of the couple’s plans.
A few years ago, both Paul and Sandra were completely oblivious to their future career path. Sandra, who had a background in civil engineering, had decided to stay at home and take care of the children while Paul was working in IT, an area he has been involved in for more than 20 years. Because Sandra was always urged by her family to get into real estate, she started a course through correspondence. The couple then decided to switch roles which meant that Sandra soon found herself working at Ratcliff Mathews. After a couple of years, her boss offered to sell the business to her as he wanted to retire and the rest, as they say, is history.
Though Ratcliff Mathews was already an established business, Sandra and Paul were faced with a host of challenges in the beginning. Soon after they decided on acquiring the business, they learnt that the existing facilities were set to be leased to a competitor agency. The couple, however, managed to find a new place in a mere two weeks even though they had never done anything similar before. Despite the difficulties they encountered, they managed the situation very well. This also allowed them to establish themselves and to let their clients know that the only change would be in the base of operations.
According to Paul, going from being employees to owning a business was a big transition. It came with a whole new set of rules that they had to learn quickly if they wanted to operate in an efficient manner. Learning how to operate at that level meant understanding how to manage expenses, handle legislation, and manage virtually every part of the business by themselves. Thankfully, the couple’s skills complement each other which meant they shared the workload and fully trusted each other with their own duties.
Trust and integrity in real estate
Trust plays a big role for Paul and Sandra across every level of the company. Their philosophy is that everyone should pitch in because everyone has each other’s back. The employees that they take in are treated like part of the family as Sandra and Paul maintain the traditional values of a family business. They help their team members achieve goals and then reward them for doing their work well. “While elsewhere you might be considered as an individual seller, here you are part of a team that works together”, they say.
Another thing that differentiates Ratcliff Mathews from other agencies is their belief in home ownership. Sandra believes that to work in real estate, you should own real estate. That way, you will know what you are talking about when you are interacting with clients because you will have already walked in their shoes. An example of this is Robert Ljubic, the company’s Property Manager. The 24-year-old employee is a trusted member of the company, a home owner and investor who treats Ratcliff Mathews like his own business and is highly respected by Paul and Sandra.
Respect and integrity is also a major part of the couple’s corporate philosophy. They are always truthful with their clients and they help them understand the entire process, step-by-step when necessary. They can and do provide their clients with numbers, statistics, and facts so that they can build their confidence through honesty. Paul and Sandra have learnt a lot about interacting with both their clients and their staff since they took over the business and they apply those lessons every day in their work.
Learning more through past experiences
They also offer some of these as advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Do your research. Be prepared and have a little money behind you to get started. You will need to invest money first. The first three to six months will be a rollercoaster; money will have to go out before it comes in. If you have a good business plan, it will give you the chance to succeed so stick to it. As long as the service is good and you do right by people, people will support you”
Though the business is doing very well already, Sandra and Paul would like to expand their reach a bit further in the future. For instance, they will be looking into hiring more people with the right attitude and focus that fits their model. This will also allow them to expand the rental side of the business with another dedicated Property Manager. These objectives are part of a five-year goal but Sandra is adamant in the fact that such plans will only move forward as long as everyone within the company is doing well. Until then, they will strive for continuous improvements both internally and externally.