Keeping it in the family: How successful family real estate businesses navigate the industry

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When it comes to working with your family, the phrase “taking your work home with you” gets a whole new level of meaning. Family-run businesses in the real estate industry might be a common enough practice, but if done well, they can lead to exceptional results. 

We sat down with siblings Ben and Erin Williams of London Pacific, spouses Tyson and Marites Kliem of Moving Friends Forward and father-daughter duo Zoe and Chuck Brook of Brook Development Management to understand why working with family is not only possible but even preferable

 

How did you get into the real estate business? 

 

Ben Williams: We really grew up with Keath [their father, and principal and managing broker at London Pacific] living and breathing real estate. As a result, we absorbed a lot and took a big interest in it.

Erin Williams: The roots are really in Keath: we would drive around in the car, or talk at the dinner table, and look at different development sites. But we both got into it so organically. Keath has always challenged us from a young age to explore different things and find our own path. He really let us find our own way into it.

 

What benefits are there from working with a family member? Drawbacks? 

 

Marites Kliem: We get to divide up the work based on our areas of strengths and what we find enjoyable.

Tyson Kliem: We can leverage each other’s strengths.

Marites: I’m more behind the scenes, while Tyson is extroverted and likes to be in the trenches. It’s like Brains & Brawn, or Beauty and the Beast.

Tyson: I’m definitely the beauty!

Zoe Brook: Chuck and I spend quite a lot of time apart because I live in Vancouver and he splits his time between Vancouver and Europe. During COVID, for instance, we didn’t see each other for almost two years. So now that we get to share this business and have an opportunity to spend more time together doing something we’re passionate about, that is really special.

Chuck Brook: When we sit across from each other, the dynamic isn’t parent-child; it’s that of equals.

Erin Williams: As life gets more complicated, and as we’re now raising our own families, the workplace has provided a wonderful opportunity for Ben and me to see each other and stay involved in each other’s lives.

 

What’s your take on the phrase ‘bringing your work home’?

 

Ben Williams: The tricky part is drawing a line between a conversation at work and a conversation at home. We all recently went skiing and didn’t talk about work once. We really try to compartmentalize as much as we can.

Zoe Brook: I’ve never known differently. Growing up, dad would have client dinners at our house regularly. It was great because it gave me exposure to the industry as a young person and I got to meet some really smart, wonderful people.

Marites Kliem: Boundaries are difficult. We’re always on for work. Whether it’s 10:00 at night or six in the morning, one of us is always processing something.

Tyson Kliem: But we’re pretty good at communicating and meeting each other where we’re at.

 

How do you maintain boundaries between your personal relationship and your professional one?

 

Chuck Brook: It’s been easy for me to treat Zoe as my little girl. But that’s not the case anymore. As a parent, there’s a mindset that goes on when your child goes from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.

Zoe has set me straight a couple of times when I’ve been looking in the rearview mirror instead of the windshield when it comes to our relationship. I really appreciate it, because I need to hear it. I think our relationship as two adults is evolving every day: we’re a long way from dad and little girl. My admiration for Zoe is growing all the time.

 

What advice do you have for other professionals considering working with family members?

 

Marites Kliem: Make sure your relationship is the priority. You can change careers five or six times in your lifetime, but I don’t plan to change my spouse that many times!

Tyson Kliem: It’s too much work to start dating again!

Zoe Brook: Think about the relationship you already have, and if you want those dynamics to grow, then do it.

Chuck Brook: We’ve also seen enough family businesses go sideways over the years, so you have to be really clear if you want to do it.

Ben Williams: It’s not for everybody. If you’re considering it, you probably already know that you’re compatible enough to do it. We grew up where communication and collaboration were really encouraged, and I think that’s why we’re so successful today.

 

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