Annual All Company Meeting
Last week’s annual meeting of Michael Saunders & Company was a celebration forty years in the making. Over 500 agents, managers, division heads and invited guests packed the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Sarasota where they joined in celebrating the past year’s successes while marveling at how far the company has progressed from its modest beginning four decades ago. In its first year, the company sold $11 million in properties. By last year, sales had risen to over $ 2.7 billion in just three Florida counties—Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte.
1976 – 2016
The year was 1976, exactly 40 years ago this summer, when Michael Saunders—having secured a $5,000 loan to get started—acted on her vision of creating a real estate experience that would be rooted in teamwork, trust and solid core values. Within an atmosphere of comfort and calm refinement, she and her small band of dedicated agents would provide the level of service befitting those making one of the most important financial and emotional decisions of their lives.
Banished in short order was the drab institutional décor that was once the hallmark of many real estate offices. It gave way to a more sophisticated design scheme that was at once gracious, welcoming and a pleasure for buyers and sellers to conduct business. Also tossed aside were the lackluster property marketing techniques of the past; replaced with professional photography, award-winning graphics and branding that gave each property a look and feel that buyers could aspire to. In later years, the company was among the first in real estate to embrace the internet as a new way to reach buyers around the world in the blink of an eye. Last year, the newest version of MichaelSaunders.com was named best web site in real estate by a panel of industry and technology experts.
Over the years, the company’s independent ownership and knowledge of its home region has always enabled it to pivot quickly in order to address fast-changing market conditions, shifting buyer preferences and new lifestyle opportunities. Indeed, one of the most noteworthy trends over the years has been Southwest Florida’s emergence as a major destination for buyers from across the U.S. and Canada; as well as from countries around the globe.
To extend the company’s services to as many of these buyers as possible, Michael Saunders has since the beginning cultivated and focused on international brokerage partnerships with the goal of optimizing in-coming referrals from around the world. Included in these strategic affiliations are Luxury Portfolio International and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (a.k.a., LeadingRE), whose President and CEO Pam O’Connor was one of the keynote speakers at the annual meeting.
In remarks that celebrated the benefits of global connectivity, Ms. O’Connor not only reminded her listeners of the scope of the two international organizations over which she presides, but also praised Michael Saunders for her role in helping LeadingRE expand in size and stature and for serving on its board of directors for 16 years. Today, the network boasts 500 firms in 50 countries with more than 120,000 agents who account for more than one million annual property transactions and over $321 billion in closed volume.
A Positive, Engaged Brain
The day’s final guest speaker was Shawn Achor, the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage. A lecturing psychologist from Harvard, Achor posits that happiness leads to success rather than vice versa. In a stimulating, often amusing talk, he advised his audience that a positive mindset has been scientifically proven to keep brains more engaged, creative, motivated, energized and productive; and that kindness and gratitude can be important catalysts for creating sustainable positive change in one’s personal and professional lives.
“What does this have to do with real estate?” Achor asked rhetorically. “If there is one thing I want you to take away from today, it is this: The greatest service you can ever give your clients is a positive, engaged brain.”
Engaged. Positive. Connected. Guided by values. Productive and grateful. These were the day’s recurring memes as the company joyfully celebrated its past; then began looking resolutely forward to the next forty years of serving buyers and sellers throughout Southwest Florida.