by Evan Roberts
Some professionals choose to run their business conservatively, favouring the status quo over the risk of change.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Real estate executive Darren Slavens has never operated that way.
Though easy-going in conversation, Slavens has the restlessness and the drive of an innovator. And whether running the brokerage, Slavens and Associates with his partners, or serving as president of the Jewish National Fund of Toronto, his successes have always been the result of a call to do better.
And a call to do good.
Slavens and his partner Richard Sherman started Slavens & Associates 14 years ago, taking over the assets of his father’s company, Paul Slavens Real Estate. No one would have faulted them for maintaining business as usual. Paul Slavens Real Estate was an institution in the city, and Slavens had always been inspired by his father’s work ethic and success.
The 40 agents who represented that company were seasoned and celebrated.
But Slavens saw a change coming in the industry. He knew that clients were starting to look for more from their agents, and that cultivating longer term, client-first relationships was the way of the future for the company. So he committed himself to undoing old, hardened habits in the industry, and bringing in new blood to support their team of established agents.
“Sometimes you need to upset the apple cart a little bit,” says Slavens.
“But if you have a clear vision in mind, and are willing to patiently usher your team through the process, an overhaul can prove to be to everyone’s benefit.”
It was an overhaul indeed.
Slavens and his partners (now including Daniel Pustil), quickly grew the company from 40 agents to 85. They’ve also opened two additional offices in the GTA.
But it wasn’t just about bringing in more people — it was about bringing in the right people, and making sure that everyone felt like a member of the family.
“We are committed to hiring the very finest people — and for me, that means the agents who look forward to working together and feeding off one another’s respective qualities.
“There is great synergy amongst the partners and the team at Slavens and Associates, and we do our best to foster and honour that.”
To that end, Slavens insists that agents are paired off together on the weekend, so there are always two agents at an open house. And the team makes sure to gather every Monday at the office for a sales meeting.
“We call it a sales meeting …” he laughs.
“But it’s more of an AA meeting. We share stories and triumphs from the week and draw on one another for support and encouragement.”
And because Slavens continues to act as an agent, he is able to relate to new and old agents alike. And he is sure to sit down with them to review tasks and establish goals. Slavens’ partner, Daniel Pustil, considers this to be one of the reasons that Slavens is so unique in the industry.
“I don’t know anyone who makes themselves more available than Darren,” says Pustil.
“And not just to his clients. Darren is there 24/7 for our team of agents, and would literally drop anything for them. That’s just who he is. And it happens to make everyone around him more successful as a result.”
The experience at Slavens and Associates has helped Slavens to hone his leadership and managerial skills. And this, in turn, has served him well in his charitable pursuits.
In June of 2016, Slavens was named president of the Jewish National Fund of Toronto. He had long been passionate about the organization, having served on its board of directors and as vice-president.
“My experience at JNF has helped me to grow as a leader. It’s my number one passion, aside from my family,” says the husband and father of two girls.
“JNF challenges me to develop and implement ideas and then measure the results of that hard work on the ground. Those are certainly responsibilities that I learned at Slavens and Associates.”
For the innumerable agents and clients that find homes through his brokerage, and the greater community that benefits from his charitable efforts, Darren Slavens’ leadership is a beacon of determination and vision.