Ray Cavin, the new Broker-Owner of Coldwell Banker Vision Realty would prefer that this story start with something about Rick Cowling, who is the previous owner of the Coldwell Banker Vision Realty brokerage.
For his part, Rick Cowling would prefer that the story begin with something about Ray Cavin.
How to get around this impasse of politeness and get to the big announcement?
We’ll pass the mic to Rick’s wife, Shauna, for just a second.
“Those two get in this cycle of ‘Thank you, no, thank you, thank you very much for the opportunity, no, thank you for running the business and looking after it while I was on vacation, no, thank you for this, no, thank you for that,’” Shauna Cowling laughed.
“I feel like saying, why don’t you both say you’re welcome and then we can move on, right?!”
Unusual in today’s world
That little window into the genial and respectful professional relationship of “those two” starts to explain how Cowling and Cavin were able to pull off a smooth and uneventful business succession—including the sale of a new 6,000 square foot commercial building—ensuring a new chapter of growth for Coldwell Banker Vision Realty in Olds, AB.
Cavin described the secret of the working partnership.
“When both sides believe that you are taking out more than you are putting in, that relationship is always going to work,” he said. “I think that marriages, business relationships, friendships and partnerships die when we believe that we’re putting in more than we’re receiving.”
Cowling didn’t disagree about the taking-out-more-than-you-put-in equation: “Yeah, we laugh about that little saying all the time,” he said. “Ray started with me 10 years ago. We had our tenth anniversary here a couple of weeks ago. It’s really unusual in today’s world to find someone with such a similar character and beliefs and work ethic. It grabs you, actually.”
Cowboy to Coldwell Banker
Now semi-retired, Rick Cowling is 66 years into a very Alberta life.
He grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on a farm near the village of Longview, AB. That’s where he studied economics.
“Growing up on a farm meant working with your hands, feeding the chickens and the pigs and the cattle, growing the grain, seeing how every dollar came in,” he said. “Just working side by side with my dad—my mom and my dad.”
In the mid-1970s, Cowling worked as a cowboy at the famed Bar U Ranch, which is now preserved as a national historic site in southern Alberta.
The family farm was sold when he was a teenager (“It broke my heart, but my dad always said his selling the farm was the best decision for me.”) The family moved to High River. Rick and Shauna married young, moved to Calgary, welcomed three children and then moved to Edmonton to get university degrees.
“We did things the hard way—university after children,” Cowling laughed. “Did I mention that I grew up on a farm?”
Fast forward through a move back to southern Alberta … work as a teacher … time spent running a flooring company (where Cavin first worked for him) … a stint operating a home-building firm … and up to Cowling’s decision to go into real estate.
“We researched all the brands and Coldwell Banker always floated to the top,” Cowling said.
Cowling was the brokerage owner. Cavin became Broker of Record. They settled on “Vision” as the name of the brokerage in part to convey that they could be trusted with clients’ pictures of their futures.
Said Cavin: “We are not moving units around. It is relational. It’s not just transactional. This isn’t a ‘sale’ as much as it is a story of someone upsizing because they had a baby. Or downsizing because the kids have moved out, and so on.”
Out of the chute, the vision for Coldwell Banker Vision Realty was to grow the business to eight agents and to construct a new building with highway exposure within five years. They have reached and exceeded those goals.
“Our goal now is to become the largest local brokerage in our area—and not by a little,” Cavin said. “Our goal is to have an overwhelming market share.”
What Coldwell Banker Vision agents can expect
To help get the brokerage there, a special kind of real estate agent and a special kind of support for that agent are needed.
“We are very selective, and we don’t take every agent,” Cavin said.
“The agents who do join us experience a brokerage where their business goals and personal dreams are met with unwavering support. When they grow professionally and personally, they are able to provide exceptional support to their clients.”
Said Cowling: “Trust is the most important word in real estate. You have to surround yourself with people you trust. People who have that family feel. People who you can rely on.”
Come on, really?
Really, Cavin said, that is the culture of the place.
The commitment to maintaining that culture has informed a unique hiring practice. A prospective agent is interviewed by Cowling and Cavin and then there’s a bit of twist.
“Rick and I would discuss it and then if the person passed that first test, and we made this clear to them, our next step would be to take it to a general meeting and discuss it with the agents,” he said. “The decision isn’t made by popular vote but by genuine conversation, and we’ve had some real conversations.”
Guiding those conversations is the principle of people over profit.
“There might be times where we make the decision that the net profit to this agent coming on isn’t going to be worth the disruption to the system,” Cavin said.
Coldwell Banker Vision Realty
Cavin said he’s ready to take the next step and guide that system.
“I’ve had such a great mentor, so I’ve had it pretty easy,” he said. “Rick always said run this like you own it.”
Now, officially, he does.
For Cowling, the passing of the torch means a chance to devote more time to family life on the acreage, even though he intends to keep doing real estate on the side. He’ll have more time for trail rides into the beloved Rocky Mountains. And time, too, to glance back on the path that has gotten him and Coldwell Banker Vision Realty to where it is.
“I am happy about what we’ve built,” Cowling said. “We have a group of really good realtors who work in a really good environment. We’ve got a brand-new building. We’re always pushing ourselves to be better.”
Go figure, Cavin said much the same thing.
“When you share a vision, you know where you are going,” he said. “You know when you get there. And you get there together.”
Note: Blog cover image at top shows Rick Cowling, left, and Ray Cavin as they seal with a handshake the change of ownership of Coldwell Banker Vision Realty in Olds, AB.