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TOP WORKPLACES: NO. 1 MIDSIZE EMPLOYER

Re/Max Preferred Associates keeps family focus

Real estate broker still has 21 of original 27 agents

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    Kathy Kuyoth and John Mangas credit the success of Re/Max Preferred Associates to, among other things, their commitment to their employees. The pair opened their business 15 years ago and were one of the few Re/Max brokerages to grow consistently during the recession.

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For 15 years, the owners of Re/​Max Preferred Associates have abided by a strict principle — no one working in their office will get a side sweetheart deal that would set them above other real estate agents.

“It’s cost us a few times. We’ve had a few top agents contact us and say, ‘I can be your loss-leader,’” said broker and co-owner John Mangas. “We’ve had to say, ‘Thanks for the thought, but we’re not interested.’”

Selling out just to add a sales star to the lineup would be seen as a betrayal, broker and co-owner Kathy Kuyoth agreed. The company, which opened in 2001 and still has 21 of its original 27 agents, is “run more like a family than a workplace,” Mrs. Kuyoth said.

SPECIAL: Top Workplaces 2017

Others agree because Re/​Max Preferred was named best midsize company in the Toledo area’s 2017 Top Workplaces competition. It is the first time the real estate brokerage, which has 100 licensed agents, four franchise locations in the Toledo area and Monroe County, and 125 employees overall, has been named the top workplace in its category, which is for companies with 75 to 299 employees. It’s main office is at 3306 Executive Pkwy. in Toledo.

The family feeling that Mrs. Kuyoth and Mr. Mangas say they try to create has been felt by the employees. Several surveyed by WorkplaceDynamics, which partnered with The Blade for the Top Workplaces competition, noted that atmosphere in comments about their employer.

“I was once part of a family business where I was told I was a member of the family; here, I feel like I’m a member of the family. Through good times and bad, John and Kathy continue to be there to celebrate our wins, console our losses, and help us to figure out how to improve on the losses,” one employee wrote.

“My boss is awesome, everyone is friendly, and I feel appreciated,” another wrote. The employee comments, gathered as part of the Top Workplaces survey, are provided without names of the workers.

The two owners said they are sensitive to workplace morale because they once worked together in an environment that changed rapidly.

In the 1990s, Mr. Mangas and Mrs. Kuyoth were sales agents at the former Cavalear Realty Co., which had a friendly, cohesive environment under founder Bob Cavalear. “Cavalear, it was just a great place to work,” Mrs. Kuyoth recalled.

But the firm was sold in 1996 to the late Ed Bergsmark, a former banker. Mr. Bergsmark tried to run the firm like a bank and morale suffered, Mrs. Kuyoth said.

The two brokers decided to start their own company in 2001, just two years before Cavalear Realty collapsed. “I think we agreed that, because of what we went through, that we were not going to do (Re/​Max Preferred) that way,” Mr. Mangas said.

Mrs. Kuyoth said she and her partner agreed to promote teamwork among employees, even though real estate sales can be a cutthroat business. The results: In 2015, industry newsletter Real Trends ranked Re/​Max Preferred 8th among the top 50 U.S. brokerages in sales productivity per person.

As a team, employees are encouraged to get involved in companywide charity activities. And each summer, the company has a parking lot party for employees and their families. “It’s important that people have fun,” Mr. Mangas said.

In the office, the company encourages veteran agents and new ones to exchange ideas or teach how to use new technologies. But more importantly, Mrs. Kuyoth and Mr. Mangas say they both try to lead by example.

That can mean obtaining new real estate expertise, such as short-sale certifications, even though neither sell homes anymore, or making shared sacrifices when needed.

For example, during the Great Recession the two met at a restaurant to decide how to save their company after sales plummeted 20 percent. “We knew we had to do something, so we started with our own salaries. We cut them in half,” Mr. Mangas said.

Mr. Mangas said everyone pulled together and the company not only survived, but according to Real Trends, it was among 17 out of 379 real estate firms nationwide that increased per-person productivity from 2002 to 2011.

“Admittedly, we didn’t grow much, but we didn’t go backward,” Mr. Mangas said. The whole company adapted by embracing recession-era specialization like short sales, bank-owned properties, and HUD loans, he said

Such adaptation couldn’t have occurred without the help and cooperation of employees, Mr. Mangas said.

“Change can either threaten you or improve you. We look at change here as an opportunity to adapt … and we’ve been good at imparting that to our agents,” he added.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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