2016 IW Winners

Business of the Year - North Bay

Sue Symons

Sue Symons

Working on commission in a highly competitive real estate market is no guarantee of personal security or success.

But staff at Royal LePage in North Bay praise Sue Symons for creating a workplace culture that puts them in a position to grow and prosper.

According to Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, Symons is consistently “setting a high bar” for other brokers in their national network of 16,000 realtors and has inspired an unwavering loyalty among her employees.

Since taking over the brokerage in late 2011, it has achieved a steady growth in the market share from 7 per cent to 33 per cent. In a market with 14 competing brokerages and 160 licensed realtors, Royal LePage has the third-largest office in North Bay but ranks first in sales volume, per capita sales, and highest average sales price based on MLS statistics as of last January.

Her entry into real estate was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Symons, who grew up in a working class family in central Ontario and at an early age developed a penchant for knowing how to make money with a lemonade stand or babysitting.

“I was always driven to want to be in business,” said Symons, who bought her first piece of land — a 10-acre rural property outside Bancroft — at 18.

Inspiration came from her grandmother, Grace Phalen, a tough-minded and trailblazing businesswoman from New Brunswick who visited the family every summer.

“Probably the greatest mentor in my life,” said Symons. “I just loved to hear the stories she would tell about business.”

As the mother of two grown sons, Symons spent 12 years at Kuehn & Nagle, a North Bay customs broker, working her way up to manager, before obtaining her real estate licence at the urging of her husband, John.

Under the tutelage of then-Royal LePage broker/ owner Don Dubytz, her aspirations to prove herself in sales and eventually become an owner would be realized within three years when she succeeded him in December 2011.

In growing the brokerage from 15 licensed realtors to 29 today, Symons is never satisfied with standing still in a results-oriented business.

“I believe if you’re status quo, you’re actually losing and falling behind,” said Symons.

Though always checking the measurables, Symons knows that running a successful business also means being a friend, a willing listener, investing in staff training, and maintaining a collaborative, nurturing and fun workplace culture.

“I wanted it to be an environment where people can learn from and lean on each other. And we have that. We have big, big producers in our office that will give any amount of time to new people coming into the business to support and answer questions and feed opportunity to. It’s pretty special.”

Always on the hunt to find the next great realtor, Symons said finding the right cultural fit is “the toughest thing, because we do recruit a lot and we don’t yes to everyone.

“No. 1 is, are you teachable? If you’re teachable, than all things are possible.” Symons and her brokerage contribute considerable time and money to several charities, including the Nipissing Transition House and fundraising walks, and sponsoring events like the Business Women’s Network Symposium.

Her devotion to community stems from the “tremendous” support her family received when the couple’s third son, Gregory, was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

Through his many surgeries, Symons vividly remembers the support coming from local health-care workers, friends, neighbours and service groups “was overwhelming to me.”

“We would have people just come and put money in our mailbox. People we didn’t know.

“We never had to ask for anything, which left you with your humility.”

When Gregory passed away at age four from complications, the support her family received forever sealed their communal bond with North Bay.

“This will always be our home. I absolutely love this city.”

Her drive to be the best comes from a deep-seated sense of responsibility that comes with being a leader.

“I truly consider myself a blessed person to be in the place that I’m in and surrounded by this tremendous team, and that’s what keeps me going and excited every day.”

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