J. Lennox Scott explains how an unwavering commitment to excellence has propelled John L. Scott Real Estate for 90 years
Seattle in the 1930s was a young city on Puget Sound at the nation’s western end – a friendly city with tree-lined streets, a thriving downtown area, and 350,000 hardworking residents largely tied to industries. wood and fishing. Named after the Native American chief of the tribes who settled it, Seattle was 80 years old and poised for growth, with thousands of acres of undeveloped land.
In this thriving town with a small town vibe came a young Scottish immigrant named John L. Scott. A shipbuilding engineer by training, Scott drove into town in his Ford Model T with his bride and toddler son en route to San Diego. However, he glanced around and felt he was meant to call Seattle home because it reminded him of Scotland.
He settled, worked for a short time in the lumber trade before turning to real estate, and in 1931 he opened the doors of his company, John L. Scott Real Estate.
90 years ago, young John had no way of knowing he was starting an inheritance or dynasty. Today, led by his grandson J. Lennox Scott, the company celebrates its 90th anniversary and continues to thrive with more than 100 offices and more than 3,000 agents in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.
Barbara Pronin: Lennox, three generations and 90 years in business is a milestone to celebrate, and that says a lot about the strength and know-how of your family over the years. But you were only 23 when you inherited the business. What was it like to take on this responsibility at such a young age?
J. Lennox Scott: It was a tall order. My father, who was the second generation to run the company, sadly passed away much too young in 1977. I was 23 and had just graduated from university. I had always known this would be my career path, having worked for the company in various capacities over the years – I started painting panels when I was 10 years old. I had been selling real estate for a little less than a year, I would be called upon to take the reins. But we were there. Ready or not, I became CEO in 1980, just in time for the onset of the Great Recession when mortgage rates shot up to 16%.
BP: How did you find where to start to run this large, successful company?
JLS: Lucky for me, with the love the team had for my dad, they told me they would support me in this endeavor. I knew what I didn’t know, but I was eager to learn, and I was fortunate to be surrounded and supported by the best agents and the most knowledgeable management team imaginable. . It was real teamwork at a time when we needed it most, and still today, collaboration is the basis of our model. It is how often we focus on the few vital elements that move us forward, following and sending our way forward. We focus on laser to provide the right resources and solutions to both our agents and our customers.
BP: Ninety years is a long time for a successful business. What is the backbone of John L. Scott Real Estate? What makes it grow and prosper?
JLS: I think it starts with our commitment to transactional excellence – a promise to do our best for every buyer and seller – and a long history of delivering on that promise. You know, when your last name is on the door, you feel that commitment every day and I’m proud to say it’s continuing into a fourth generation already. My daughter, Savannah, who is 26, started as a team assistant six years ago and has only just gotten a license to sell real estate.
BP: How would you describe your corporate culture, Lennox? What motivates your top performing agents?
JLS: Without a doubt, our culture relies on the power of teamwork, of helping, of being kind, of celebrating the success of our teammates as much as we rejoice in our own. Our mantra here is, “Good to big, big to big” —and there are many components to greatness. Our agents are as competitive as any, they’ve been entrepreneurial, but they understand that part of greatness is sharing and helping, and that extends to our clients. Our goal is to provide the ultimate customer experience®, by being their personal representative and, in addition, by providing marketing excellence to sellers. This means alleviating problems for buyers and sellers, not only by providing bridging loans, for example, but by facilitating iBuyer solutions; or our Market Ready Plus + program, giving sellers access to capital so they can repair their home to enhance it before listing it … or give buyers access to their equity so they can buy before to sell. In fact, over 80% of our turnover today comes from repetitions and referrals. It is the best compliment we can receive.
BP: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. How has the health crisis impacted your business?
JLS: In many ways, the pandemic has confirmed our care for each other and for the community. We have used all available avenues to increase our connectivity, reach out to customers and each other via Video and Zoom, change our business practices to keep people safe, and use electronic ingenuity and skills to keep things going. real estate on the move. Later, as the pandemic prompted people to reassess their priorities and many found themselves able to work remotely, we were busier than ever, but we were also well positioned to handle the big rush to relocate. In total, we recorded 34,000 transactions in 2020 worth $ 16 billion.
BP: Can you give us an idea of how the company has reached its current reach and reach?
JLS: When my grandfather moved to Seattle over 90 years ago, it was primarily because it reminded him of his homeland of Scotland, but also because he recognized the growth potential of the city – and he was right. As the streetcar lines came in, making it easier for people to move around, he went from one office to three. In the 1940s, with the expansion of the floating bridges over Lake Washington, the business grew again, and then was able to expand again with the arrival of highways and ferries across Puget Sound. Today, as you mentioned, we operate 110 offices with over 3,000 agents in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and now franchises in California.
BP: The world is changing in many ways, Lennox. Diversity and inclusion are on everyone’s agenda. How is your business reacting?
JLS: What a wake-up call for the nation was the murder of George Floyd – and what a reminder that there is so much more to do. As an industry and individually, we have worked hard to support diversity, which leads to fair housing. Now is the time to take big steps forward as an industry. Following the passage of two bills this year, we are now working with Washington State to identify and help remove racist language from property titles and make diversity education mandatory for all professionals in the world. ‘immovable. As you may know, Oregon has banned the practice of so-called “love letters,” with the law coming into effect on January 1, 2022. Officers can no longer present these letters, which are written by buyers with the aim of wooing sellers, because of the risk this could pose to fair housing. We remain resolutely focused on removing barriers and promoting equal property rights — this is another facet of our commitment to customer service.
BP: There is a quote from you on your website that says, “Our business is transactional excellence, but our top goal is to Live Life as Contribution®”. Tell me how you came to believe it and how you put it into practice.
JLS: Our practice of reaching a higher goal began with my grandfather and lasted for 90 years. The John L. Scott Foundation supports 25 children’s health care events for 19 different hospitals, with most years helping to raise over $ 15 million for this purpose. Additionally, in COVID-free years, our John L. Scott family members personally serve 50 dinners each year to families with sick children at Ronald McDonald Houses. In 2020 and 2021, we were unable to volunteer in person, but we have maintained our engagement with Ronald McDonald Houses by providing catered meals to residents. Most of our agents and team members also give back to the communities they serve in other ways. It is a natural part of our care culture. There is also a more spiritual aspect to what we do, based on the principles outlined by my wife in her book “Speaking the Language of Miracles”. It assumes that the situation – any situation – is not who you are. For many people, this opens the door to a journey of self-discovery, inspiration, and empowerment that are essential to positive results.
BP: So affirmation is a fundamental value…?
JLS: Yes, and our statement of who we are is the desired outcome. Our management team takes this practical five-step approach: What’s the situation? What is the desired outcome? What role can we play in the desired outcome? What activities can we do to save this? And finally, follow and feel our progress, learn as we go and anticipate what’s to come. Discipline is the key. This is critical.
BP: If you had a crystal ball, Lennox, what changes in the industry would you predict, and how is the company preparing for them?
JLS: In fact, I gave a speech on this topic in 2008, and it’s something that we continue to think about and work on today. There were three things that technology is advancing. First, reduce transaction processing time. We have now reduced it to 10 days, but we want to reduce it to five. It would free up the agent and give more certainty to buyers and sellers. Second, assist the residential investor country by ensuring that each listing can be accessed nationwide in a nanosecond. Third, provide a portal to give each owner easy access to all information about their property.
One of the responsibilities of large brokerage houses is to identify these types of problems before they become problems and to develop practical and achievable solutions to resolve them. It’s our approach that keeps our business proactive and passionate in a world of ever-changing needs since my grandfather came to town 90 years ago.
For more information, please visit www.johnlscott.com.
Barbara Pronin is editor-in-chief of RISMedia.