Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME. I’m Erin Davis. Whether it’s our salaries or our family dinners, negotiating is part of our daily lives. For REALTORS®, it’s fundamental to your business. On episode 22 of REAL TIME brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association, we’re joined by one of Canada’s most influential business leaders, the dynamic and very entertaining Wes Hall who brings us some practical knowledge.
With Mr. Hall, the newest member of CBC’s Dragons’ Den team, we’ll explore principles, best practices, and trends in negotiation, as well as key takeaways to help you as a REALTOR® to strengthen that skill. Look at you with the still new dragon glow to you. [chuckles] You said on a promo for CBC that everybody was going to love you and all the dragons were going to love you. How has that worked out so far, Wes?
Wes Hall: They still love me.
Erin: Oh, good.
Wes: That’s what happens when you’re a lovable person. Everybody is going to love you, right?
Erin: Oh, okay. All right. I’ll keep that in mind for our conversation here. It’s great to have you with us. Your story is unbelievable. You did, as you know, grow up living in a tin shack in Jamaica, and now here you are one of North America’s most influential power brokers, a hugely successful entrepreneur, an anti-racism activist, and of course, as we mentioned, the newest dragon in the den. Tell us if you can, Wes, here, and it will make a best-seller one day if it hasn’t already, your journey from such humble beginnings to where you are today. Would you, please?
Wes: It is indeed a journey. When people hear about this tin shack, they probably roll their eyes and go, “Of course, everybody is from a tin shack.” I literally was from that tin shack. It’s got the zinc roof. If you look it up on the internet Wes Hall’s tin shack, you probably will see it. Me and my grandmother in a picture standing looking at the shack and me saying to my grandmother at the time, “I’m going to get you out of this place one day.”
I have 14 brothers and sisters, by the way, a traditional Jamaican family where I have zero full brothers and sisters in that number. My mom and dad was never married. They had a one-off and I was that one-off. That’s why I’m so special because you just can’t replicate Wes Hall.
Erin: I wish you’d work on your self-confidence a bit.
Wes: I’ve tried. It’s just so hard.
Wes: It’s hard to be humble but I try.
Erin: You came to Canada in your teens.
Wes: September 27th, 1985, Friday. I came to live with my dad and I moved to Malvern. That’s where my dad was living at the time and he had five kids in Canada on his own. I came in to live as number six in that household. He had another daughter that was in Jamaica that came later on, but I was out of the house by that time. I was added to that household and it was the most amazing thing for me because it was my first time on an airplane, my first-time seeing traffic lights because I lived in literally the bush in Jamaica.
When I came here, I got off the airplane at Toronto International Airport, Pearson. I walked outside and I saw these people, my siblings, and my stepmom, and my dad waiting for me. Oh, man, it was just a euphoric moment. Then I got into their vehicle and I’m driving on a six-lane highway, the 401. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Then we landed at his house in Scarborough that the whole neighborhood was still under construction. It was mud and dirt but to me, that was paradise. I found paradise coming to Canada.
I kept that picture of me and my grandmother in that tin shack on my desk on Bay Street for two reasons. One is to remind me of where I came from and never to forget, and two, to celebrate this great country of ours. It’s only in a place like Canada – I hear about the American dream and so on. You never hear about the Canadian dream, but the Canadian dream is alive and well. For me having that picture, it’s really celebrating the Canadian dream, that you can come from a tin shack and you can end up at the top of corporate Canada on Bay Street.
Erin: It is an amazing story. The Canadian dream, as you say, we don’t tout it enough. It’s our nature to downplay stuff like that. Your grandmother who raised you and your brothers and sisters, what kind of an impact or influence did she have on the man that you are today?
Wes: Everything, every aspect of who I am today was architected by her. When you think about it, she didn’t sit me down and gave me lessons and say, “Here is how you become a man, Wes.” She used her example of industriousness to show me what I should be when I grow up. See, I was abandoned. My oldest sister, she was two years older than me, my younger brother who was a year younger than me, and I was 18 months at a time and we were left in a house by ourselves by our mother. A neighbor heard us crying and went to the plantation. My grandmother worked at a plantation. She worked in a plantation, banana plantation, a coconut plantation depending on the season.
The house that we were raised in was provided by the plantation owners for the workers to raise their family, so my grandmother had this two-room tin shack that she was given. She came and got us from the plantation and brought us to live with her. I was 18 months old and she wasn’t argumentative about it or was bitter about it. She was 60. Could you imagine at 60 years old, you have all these grandkids that you’re raising already and then you inherited three more and the three was all under five years old? You would have some resentment towards your children or your kid that did to you or towards your grandkids.
My grandmother, I never ever remembered her holding it against me as a child. She was working extremely hard to make sure that there’s food on the table for us, to make sure that we went to school. We didn’t have much. I didn’t wear shoes to go to school because we couldn’t afford it. There are times when I didn’t even have food to bring to school to have lunch. The fact of the matter is that she knew that education was important, and she made sure that we went to school. I grew up watching her, and as a result of watching her, it was instilled in me what I should be when I grow up and I wanted to be like her.
Erin: She taught you the art of negotiation, I understand too. As anyone who has been to a Jamaican market, as a tourist, I always go in there and I go. “Oh, I hate to haggle. I hate that bartering back and forth.” If you don’t know how to do that, you don’t belong there.
Wes: Listen, when you are poor, you have no choice. Just put it that way. If you think about my grandmother raising all these grandkids, and she has a finite amount of money to spend. If you think about what it’s like to work on a sugar cane plantation, you’re in the hot Jamaican sun, you’re bent over with a machete in your right hand and grabbing the stalks or sugarcane with your left hand and you’re chopping at the root. Then you chop the stalk at the top and then you put them in piles, and you do that for 10 hours a day. The only time you stop is to drink some water, wipe the sweat off your brow and have a little bit of a snack or something to eat quickly and you go back at it again.
When you get that paycheck, once a month they pay you, you have to stretch that money as far as you possibly can. When you go to the market to shop, you have to make sure that if they’re saying that tomatoes are $2 a pound, you try to make sure that you get that tomato for $0.50 a pound. That’s what I saw in my grandmother when she would take me to the market with her that not a single price that she was quoted she end up paying for that product. She always negotiated and she always got the price she wanted.
Erin: She was also someone who was selling her wares as well, so you sold from the other side.
Wes: Exactly. I saw the buying part and the selling part. When you’re buying, you want to get it as cheap as possible. When you’re selling, you want to get the most money as possible. One of the things that my grandmother would do is because she would sell puddings, for example, she would bake these amazing puddings and she would sell them. Her puddings were so good that she would be selling it for more than everybody else in the market. She’ll be sold out before everybody else. That would create this amazing word around the neighborhood that if you want to get the best pudding at the market, you have to go early because Mama Julia’s pudding is always sold out early.
When you’re creating that kind of demand for your product, it doesn’t matter what the competition is doing because you’re always going to get your price. Especially when you’re going to be sold out before everybody else, you can keep on marketing that up. That’s what my grandmother would do, that her pudding was the most expensive pudding in the market and it’s always the one to go first.
Erin: Before we leave Jamaica and head to Bay Street, which is where we’re speaking to you today, what became of your grandmother? Were you able to share some of your bounty with her before she left us?
Wes: You know what, thank you for that question because I never really got asked that question in the past and I really appreciate it. In that tin shack picture that you would see if you search on the internet, I was 22 years old and my grandmother was a very old woman at the time. I went back and I said to her, “Mama, I’m going to get you out of this tin shack one day. I’m going to work hard enough in Canada. I will continue to work hard to get you out to that tin shack.” I got my first big break on Bay Street, the first one I became a vice president on Bay Street, I’m like, “Finally, I’m ready to get my grandmother out to that tin shack,” and she died two weeks later.
She never saw the ultimate success. See, I had three children. I was working hard. I was trying to provide for my family, and I was waiting for the perfect opportunity, the perfect timing to bring her over to show her my success. As a result of waiting for the perfect opportunity, she never saw any of it. I shouldn’t have waited. I should have brought her in here a lot sooner so that she can see what I saw when I came here at 16-years old, September 27th, 1985, because that impressed me, just being in this country impressed me. I know she would be impressed by this country and by what I was doing to work hard and to try to provide for myself and my family here.
She never saw it. She died in that tin shack. That’s one of the reasons why, Erin, I push myself as hard as I do because she deserved to be where I’m at, she deserved to appreciate the fruits of my labor because she was a big part of that and she never got it. I don’t really work for money anymore. Yes, I initially started by saying I want to make as much money as I possibly can, but now I try to change people’s lives by the wealth I’ve created for myself by working hard. If I can change people’s lives like my grandmother changed my life, this world will be so much a better place.
Erin: That is so beautiful. Thank you and I am so sorry. I’m so sorry for that regret for you, Wes.
Erin: Coming up, how Wes Hall just about let his biggest break slip away because he had to. It’s a great story. Love REAL TIME? Thanks for finding and supporting us. Subscribe to our channels on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher to stay up to date on future guests and stories, or visit CREA.ca/podcast for more details and to catch up on past episodes. They are all worth your time.
You referred to that job, that vice presidency that you got on Bay Street. Your first really big break, but you almost talked your way out to that one. I just love the lesson in here. Be prepared to lose, Don’t pick a fight with someone who’s got nothing to lose. Tell us that story, Wes, if you would, please.
Wes: I was living in a 1100 square foot house with my wife. We couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage. We had three kids under three years old and I had this job offer to be director of business development for a US company and I was going to be business development director in Canada. I had this mindset that my next big break has to be a vice president position. I won’t accept anything less than that. This gentleman, the CEO of the company, offered me this opportunity to be director of business development and he told me what the salary was and so on.
I remember when he gave me the call, I was in the master bedroom with my wife. We didn’t really have enough money to afford a bed, so the box spring and the mattress was on the floor and that’s where we’re sleeping. I took this call and the gentleman says, “I have exciting news for you, Wes. After the job interview and everything, I’m offering it a position of direct to business development.” I said to the gentleman, “I really appreciate the offer, however, I would like to be a vice president.” He said to me, “I don’t have the authority to offer you a vice president position but director of business development is yours”. I said to him, “When you have the authority to offer me that job, give me a call”.
Wes: He said, “Okay.” [chuckling] He hang up the phone, and that was it. My poor wife was laying on the mattress on the floor. She could not believe what just happened because we didn’t even have enough money to buy diapers for all the kids and I’m turning down this job not because of the money, but because of the title. She couldn’t believe it, but guess what happened. Two weeks later, I got a call from that gentleman and said, “I have the authority to give you what you want,” and I became a vice president on Bay Street.
Erin: Oh. Those were some tense two weeks with your wife, though, I’m going to guess.
Wes: [chuckles] We’ve been married for 30 years now and I can tell you if I didn’t get a job, it probably wouldn’t have made it to 30.
Erin: Wes, why is it so hard for us to negotiate fair compensation?
Wes: I think we’re afraid of losing out. When you think about it, that’s your value. That’s what’s going to create wealth for yourself and your family. That compensation is going to allow you to take nice vacations, live in a nice home, be able to do things for others philanthropically, and so on, but yet we find it very difficult to tell people this is how much I’m worth, this is what my value is to you. We go into companies and we create massive values for companies.
When I was working at this vice president level at this company, I was creating a ton of value. I was underpaid and I went into my boss’s office and I said, “Listen, I’m underpaid because here’s the value that I’m creating for you, and here’s where my compensation is. They don’t align with each other.” They fundamentally disagreed with me on it and I left to start Kingsdale. If they didn’t disagree with me, I would be still working for somebody else and I wouldn’t have started my own company, Kingsdale.
As a result of starting this company, I became one of the most successful person in the industry and become the person that I am on Bay Street today because I wasn’t getting fair compensation to begin with. I tried to do something about it, and when they refused to do something about it, I decided to go on my own and bet on myself. That’s the problem, a lot of people aren’t prepared to bet on themselves. When you think about it, would you prefer to invest in somebody else or would you prefer to invest in yourself because you know what you can do, you know what your limitations are, you know what your capabilities are as well?
Why not bet on yourself especially when you want to be an entrepreneur, but you go, “Man, I just don’t know if I can do it.” You need to get those doubts out of your mind, at least give it a shot. That’s why I decided to do, when I started this firm, I said, “I don’t want to be sitting here 20 years later regretting the opportunity that I’ve missed. I want to know that I’ve tried it, it didn’t work and I can pivot and figure something else out.”
Erin: Boy, have you ever made it work out for you? Let’s talk a little bit about high-stakes negotiation. How do you go about reading the room?
Wes: Every single negotiation we go into, we have to figure out who’s on the other side of that negotiation. Some people are prepared to pay more than others, some people are just not. When you are in a business where there’s no particular price list, for example, if you look in the real estate business and there’s typically if you go down a particular street in a particular neighborhood, every single house is not exactly priced the same.
There’s room there, wiggle room for your creativity, and for you to now determine to the market why your house should be more valued than the other houses in the neighborhood, and in sometimes, 20%, 30% higher. There may be features that you put into your house that others didn’t put into there. How do you value that? In terms of negotiating, you have to figure out how important are these things to the person buying my house?
Erin: How does a REALTOR® go about finding out what’s important? Just listen or what hints would you give, Wes?
Wes: I would say the questions that you ask. When you’re going through a showing, for example, you have to appreciate what are the things that are getting the person’s attention that you’re touring through the house. Sometimes, for example, we’re going through and we are just excited about, “Oh, I can’t wait to show them this part of the house,” but yet that person is still in the kitchen looking around the kitchen, but we want them to hurry up so they can show them the important part of the house. Guess what?
The reason why they’re in the kitchen, maybe he’s a chef and he loves to cook. He’s picturing himself in the kitchen cooking a beautiful meal and you’re trying to interrupt that by showing him the gym when he doesn’t care about the gym because the gym is so beautiful or the theater is so beautiful, but he doesn’t watch TV or he doesn’t watch movies, or he doesn’t really care about those things. We need to read the audience and to see what’s appealing to them and then focus on those moments.
One of the things that somebody said that I heard great about selling the house is that sometimes after you finish the showing, just sit in the living room or some great part of the house with the person and have a conversation with them because then they can visualize themselves living in that house, sitting in that room, maybe reading a book, maybe the fireplace is on and it’s snowing outside. All of a sudden, it changes their view on the place because they see themselves in it. Sometimes we miss those little part of getting things done. If we focus on those things and pay attention, we can close deals really quickly and we can actually get the prices that we are looking for.
Erin: So much of this is listening, isn’t it?
Wes: It is. One of the things that I tell my team when we’re negotiating, for example, and sometimes in real estate, you’re on the phone negotiating with the other side and you give them all the this is why this house is so great and everything, the feature sheets is all there and everything. Then you tell them, “Okay, but this is my price, $10 million.” Let’s say, for argument’s sake, we’re in the big leagues here, $10 million. This person on the other end, you convince them that this is the best house for them and you know you convinced them is the best house. Then when you put the $10 million on the table, again, you try to justify it still.
Why? You’ve already convinced them that this is a house for them. Now you have to convince them that $10 million is a price that they need to pay in order for them to own it. Let them determine why it’s not worth $10 million. Sometimes we try to sell against ourselves. We tend to just oversell when we already have this person closed. Then we try to justify the price tag that we put on there.
We shouldn’t justify. If we list the house for $10 million, once you start to you put your feature sheet out and you start to bring people through it, $10 million is $10 million. You bring me an offer for $10 million, nothing less. You bring me something less, I’m going to have a conversation with my seller about it, but at the end of the day, this price is the price that you’re going to pay ultimately. You’re not going to get me to say it’s eight or seven because other come say this is unique, and these are the reasons why it’s unique. When you find that buyer that know that this place is unique, you got to close them.
Erin: Sometimes it’s listening to the seller too, the seller who maybe doesn’t want this house torn down for a replacement. That they want to be able to come by and see it again with their grandchildren one day and say, “This is your parents were born,” or something like that. There can be things to listen to in the seller’s story too. Can’t there?
Wes: Absolutely. I sold my first house for $200,000. Bought it for $112,000 and I sold it for $200,000. It’s over 30 years and every year, I go back to look at that house because I remembered when I was standing in the bedroom, when I got that job offer and I turned it down, I remember that I fixed that porch at the front. The porch was done by me, my hands.
I take pictures of that house it’s important to me that I do that. Then I bring my kids by to say, “This is the way you were born.” If I now, let’s say, when I was selling that house and I had that emotional attachment to that place, and somebody said, “I’m going to rip it down and I’m going to this amazing building there and the house is going to be fantastic,” fine, that’s your dream, but you just took away something that’s really important to me because you’re going to demolish it.
As a result of that, I prefer to sell it to someone for less money who’s going to preserve it than somebody who’s going to destroy that memory. Sometimes if we don’t appreciate the seller’s motivation for selling, we could be leaving a lot of value on the table and we completely could be losing opportunities because we just didn’t listen to the reasons behind why this person is selling this house.
Erin: When we return to REAL TIME, our guest, Wes Hall, one of Canada’s top rank business negotiators looks at the things that hold us back, the barriers when it comes to negotiation. If you’re like me, you find the best coffee or tea is the one you’re enjoying at home, maybe right now, but the best content is at the CREA Cafe. Tap into the knowledge of REALTORS® across this country of ours. Share your own lessons and insights by visiting REALTORS® Corner on CREA Cafe, a hub of great content created by REALTORS® for REALTORS®.
When we’re talking about negotiation, as you’ve pointed out so perfectly, it can come with a great range of emotions, especially in an industry like real estate where clients aren’t just buying and selling houses, they’re buying and selling homes. They’re buying and selling the place where your children came into the world and where you took that phone call and said, “No, I’m going to wait for VP.” Wes, what are common emotional barriers to negotiation? You’ve said there’s a thin line between arrogance and confidence. What are some of the most common emotional barriers?
Wes: I think sometimes it’s really not really understanding people’s motivation. When you think about the real estate transaction is one of the most important transaction that you’ll ever do in the business world. I buy and sell companies and so on, but that’s only a very small number of individuals that are in that category. Most people that own a home, at some point, they’re going to transact. At some point in their life, they’re going to sell that home, and then they have to make that decision very, very quickly. The longer you stay in that home, and the more improvements that you make to it, the more difficult it is to part with it.
You’re parting with your neighbors that you’ve built great relationship with over the years, you’re going to the unknown in the future. If you don’t understand the emotional attachment that people may have to that piece of asset that they’ve cherished for so long, that have built their value – My company, for example, that $112,000 home that I bought, for example, allowed me to a bigger home that allowed me to put a leverage on it to start my company, Kingsdale. That home created a value that I have and the wealth that I have today. It was an emotional attachment because it’s my future.
If you don’t appreciate it, that it’s my future, and don’t really treat it like that, then all of a sudden I don’t want to do business with you because doing any type of business, especially in that space, it’s about trust. I have to have trust and confidence in you that we’re going to have a good working relationship, you’re going to respect what I bring to the table, and I’m going to respect what you bring to the table.
When you give me the advice to say, “Wes, you should take this undervalued number or this price,” that I trust that you’re coming from the right place and that you just don’t want to turn me over because you have so many deals on the table and you have so many other clients, I have to be so special to you that I believe that I’m the only client that you have even though you may have hundreds. You have to give me the impression that I’m so important to you, that there’s nobody else that you’re paying attention to. My business, Kingsdale, when you think about what we do, we advise companies that are doing hostile takeovers and shareholder activism.
When I’m advising a CEO that’s under threat, somebody is saying that we’re going to replace you because you’re not competent. Then I’m talking to that CEO and I’m saying, “Wait a minute here, I’ll call you back because I have somebody else on the phone to talk to,” how do you think that person feels? In their mind, they’re the most important person on your list and you’re telling them that no, let me call you back because I have other things to do. We should make sure that we spend as much time.
If we look at it to say, “You’re not paying me as much as somebody else,” guess what? That person in the future could be paying you so much more because you’ve cultivated that relationship. Again, I spent $112,000 for my first home. Could you imagine had the real estate agent, who actually didn’t, treated me just like a sale? Then I bought my second house for double the price and then my third house and my fourth and my fifth to now I’m here in Dragons’ Den and I’m creating this wealth.
Could you imagine if that $112,000 relationship had been kept to this point how much more successful that relationship would be for that initial agent? We have to look at relationships as very, very long-term and thus forget about the price because people go through cycles in their career, and you want to follow them through that cycle. It’s all dependent on how you treat them from when they’re at the beginning of the cycle to all the way through the cycle.
Erin: In their career and in their families. You’re going to need more bedrooms, you’re going to need fewer bedrooms. You might want to buy a second home, if you’re able to, for your children to live in.
Wes: Exactly right.
Erin: All of these and the importance of building relationships. Just before we get off this particular part of the conversation, Wes, and we’re just loving having you here today, how do we cope with our own humanity? How do we cope with our emotions and not let that overrule the sense of a business decision?
Wes: When you’re successful, there’s a lot of pride and ego that comes with success, the reason being is because everybody’s telling you how great you are. Your staff’s telling you, “Wow, you’re number one in the city,” or you’re number one in the province or you’re number one in Canada. Then all of a sudden, there’s other things that start to come with that. Hubris comes with it and you need to have people around you, they’re just not buying it.
I always use the expression with my wife that we’ve been married for 30 years next year. We go for walks every morning and literally I say she carries a pin around with her so that when my head is getting too big and bloated, she just takes the pin out and just pop it. That keeps me grounded because I know that that person, she’s going to call me out. I want people around me to call me out because that’s the only way that you are levelheaded because sometimes we get ahead of ourselves, and even the people that like us hate us as a result of it.
Erin: I can’t imagine.
Wes: I know. The kids are like, “This is too much, he’s too much.” If that start to happen, that means that you just aren’t surrounding yourself with the right people or maybe you have them but you’re not taking their advice. I know some of the most successful leaders that I know today are people who have amazing people around them and they listen to them, and they get good counsel from them and it allows them to be grounded and still be very, very successful.
One of the things that I look at as well is, philanthropically, if you’re a successful person, do you give back? Because it takes a certain personality to go, “I’ve earned all this money, I’m going to give it to help certain causes,” or if you don’t have it financially yet, to donate your time to mentor maybe kids in underserved communities or people who want to be a part of your sector to be able to bring them in and give them that free advice and mentorship. If you do those things and you do a lot of them, they automatically keep you humble.
Erin: When we come back with negotiator extraordinaire and newest star of CDC’s Dragons’ Den, Wes Hall, does he ever get intimidated? And a tough message that Wes had to deliver that ended up being called the best advice the anxious recipient had ever gotten.
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Now back to Wes Hall on REAL TIME. As somebody who leads shareholder activist campaigns, what strategies have you used for approaching sensitive or difficult negotiations because you are involved, you are giving back, you are being the person that little Wes in bare feet going to school needed at that time other than your dear grandmother? What strategies have you used? What do you keep in your heart while you’re doing this?
Wes: First of all, I’m never intimidated by people. I remember I was advising the CEO of a very large company; it was a hostile takeover and a proxy contest. I was brought in on the file pretty late. I was in my late 30s and this was a very big transaction. The CEO made a lot of fundamental mistakes in communicating to the market and strategic decisions that he made. These shareholders came out and said, “We want him fired.” The board and the CEO hired me to defend them. After analyzing the situation, I decided to set a meeting with the CEO, and I went into his office. His office was massive, massive, massive office. It took me like five minutes to walk to his desk from the door.
I sat there in front of him and I said to him, “I am really good at what I do, but there’s so many mistakes that were made I can’t help you and you’re going to lose this fight. My recommendation is for you to get into the boardroom and negotiate an exit package with the current board because we’re going to lose this fight and you’re going to have a hostile board coming in. It’s either negotiate with friends now or enemies later. Which do you prefer?” That’s a tough message because at the time, this gentleman was making a few million dollars a year in compensation and he had a great life. I told him there to go resign tomorrow.
The next day he actually resigned. Still today he’s like, “The best decision, best advice I’ve ever been given.” If I was intimidated by the size of his office, how much his compensation was, that I’m just this 30 something-year-old Black guy walking into this accomplished person’s office to give him this piece of advice, he wouldn’t have gotten the right advice because of me being intimidated and me being afraid to do the right thing and say the right thing because of how he was going to respond to it. We have to always appreciate that integrity first, that matters.
Sometimes we’re giving people advice that they don’t want to hear because we’re intimidated by them. If we allow that to stop us from giving the right advice, I don’t think we’re being good advocates, I don’t think we’re being good advisors. In the real estate business, that’s what you are, you’re an advisor. You’re going to walk into somebody’s home and you’re going to tell them, “I know you think this house is worth $10 million, but it actually doesn’t. It’s worth 5 and there’s a reason why f5 is a good price for it.” You’re going to sit there and go, “Well, you know.”
If you were intimidated to have that conversation with that person, you’re going to take it at 10, you’re going to try to sell at 10 and you realize that you can’t execute at 10. You’re going to bring them an offer for 5, which you know is the right offer, but then all of a sudden, your credibility is out the window because you weren’t upfront and you weren’t transparent in the beginning.
Always be transparent because at the end of the day, after giving that CEO the advice, if he didn’t resign and we lose and he loses everything because all of a sudden, the new guy’s coming in going, “I’m not going to negotiate your compensation package with you, I’m firing you right now and you have to sue me to get what you’re entitled to.” He would have been worse off in that situation. I would feel bad that I didn’t give him the right advice, to begin with, because I was intimidated or was afraid of what he was going to say. We always have to think about our integrity when we give advice, is this the right advice, and why? If the client doesn’t want to take it, you’re not going to have any regrets.
Erin: When we wrap up our talk today with Wes Hall, how to navigate the waters when you’re working with family, don’t miss it.
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Now back to our guest. He’s a master negotiator even when it comes to family, Wes Hall. I can’t imagine what it was like growing up one of your five children with a master negotiator. Did anybody ever get a raise in their allowance or how did you move your negotiating prowess into parenthood, or was this something that you left mom to do? How did that all work out, Wes?
Wes: First of all, two of my boys are working with me. One is working with me very, very closely. Last week, he said to me, “I know we’re on compensation season, so I just wanted to know what’s going to happen with my comp?” I said, “How much are you making?” He told me and I said, “Why do you need more than that? I’m paying your rent, you’re living with me at home, I’m buying your food. The only thing that you have to worry about is the clothes that you wear. Why do you need more money than that?”
Erin: Not fair.
Wes: That’s a reasonable response to it. He started to stutter a little bit because he didn’t really know how to respond to that. I said, “Plus, the work that you’re putting in, you’re going to inherit in the future anyways. Why do you need money now? You’re fine.”
Wes: I said that in a sense that I want to see how he responded to it. He certainly held his own and justify why his compensation should be higher and he will get a higher compensation. What my wife said to me at times is that just remember that you were dad first and you’re their business person and the boss second. How you interact – When you’re working closely with your son or your daughter, especially in the real estate game where there’s a lot of families working together, sometimes we forget the fact that we’re just a parent first and the business will be fine.
I keep that in mind every time we’re having conversations, whether it’d be about tough conversations like compensation, conversation about discipline in terms of a work discipline, meaning that you messed up on this thing, and how do I respond to you? Do I respond to you as your boss or do I respond to you as your father? When I get home, do I have the boss hat on at home or do I have the dad hat on at home? I make sure that I’m very careful in terms of what hat I’m wearing when I’m having those conversations because it could ultimately affect our relationship in a very negative way if that’s not managed properly.
Erin: Is there a limit on how much shop-talk at home or over the dinner table?
Wes: [laughs] My wife manages that, Erin, very, very well. She’s very good about – We try to have dinner as a family at 6:00 PM every evening. Around the table, we talk about different things but we’re very balanced in terms of what we talk about. If I’m sitting on the couch reading a book or I’m watching a show, he doesn’t walk in and say, “Hey, by the way, that deal, here’s what’s going on,” and all that. He respects those boundaries.
If we’re having a five-minute conversation about something business at the dinner table, we do that but it’s not an hour conversation. It’s a very short conversation, but the rest of the conversation is about family, about us, and the business will come. We don’t overly focus ourselves on business, business, business, because that could be draining and there’s no time to unwind and there’s a lot of stress that comes with that.
To the extent that when I’m walking with my wife, for example, if I have something on my mind business-wise, that’s where it gets resolved because it’s amazing. When you’re talking to somebody who’s not in the sector that you’re in, they can see problems from a completely different perspective. I value that perspective because I would never have thought of the solution the way that she would think about it. I find that we solve a lot of problems in my business world by having those walks and having those conversations with her about challenges that I’m facing and coming up with a completely different way of thinking about it that I wouldn’t have.
Erin: You know, Wes, that once COVID’s over, you’re not going to be able to hide behind the mask and everybody’s going to be recognizing you from TV. Your wife’s going to need a bigger pin.
Wes: [laughs] It’s funny I was walking through the neighborhood, and this was when I was just announced on Dragons’ Den. This young lady walked by me and she turned around and said, “Are you Wes Hall?” My wife was with me, and I said, “Yes.” She’s like, “Oh, I love you. I can’t wait to watch you.” My wife after, she turned around, she looked at me and said, “Oh, man. I’m not going to live this down.”
Wes: I’m like, “See, I’m a big deal, honey. You got to treat me like a big deal.” She shaked her head and go, “Yes, never.” [laughs]
Erin: That’s great. Great, great, great. Thank you for helping us to talk about negotiating deals and everything that’s been a part of this, Wes. It’s been just such a pleasure, and you are a big deal.
Wes: Erin, you know what? You’re so kind, you should be my PR person.
Erin: [laughs] Oh.
Wes: [chuckles] I probably can’t afford you for that.
Erin: Now that you’ve taught me how to negotiate.
Wes: That’s right.
Erin: Thank you.
Wes: Thank you, Erin.
Erin: Best of luck to you in everything. I can’t wait to read an autobiography about you, or I’ll write it with you.
Wes: It’s coming out next year so stay tuned.
Erin: Awesome. Thank you, Wes, so much.
Wes: Perfect. Thank you.
Erin: Thanks again to Wes Hall for joining us for this episode of REAL TIME brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Remember to be sure to visit CREA.ca to access valuable resources and discover more fantastic real estate-related content. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button. Will you, please? REAL TIME is produced by Rob Whitehead with Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. Thank you for making the time to join us.
Whether it’s our salaries or family dinners, negotiating is part of daily life. For REALTORS®, it’s fundamental to their business. On Episode 22 of REAL TIME, we’re joined by Wes Hall, one of North America’s most influential business leaders, to wrap up the year with some practical knowledge and inspiring stories. Wes shares his journey from humble beginnings in Jamaica to Bay Street in Toronto, and how negotiation was foundational to his success. As the newest dragon on Dragons’ Den, he also shares tips for staying grounded as an entrepreneur. From knowing your audience to knowing your worth, gain insight to help build your skills as a negotiator and an advisor.