Q&A with the CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated
We at Spark feel fortunate to have Ms. Lawlor answer our questions and share her insights about the Real Estate Industry, her incredibly inspirational career and what continues to drive her.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about how you got your start in the industry?
During the 1980s, I worked in the entertainment industry. I enjoyed it, but I felt it was time to try something different. I met Martin Atkins, who had a marketing business focusing on condominium sales and he hired me to sell for him. It was exciting, and I saw a bright future in condo sales in the Greater Toronto Area. When Martin moved to the United States, I looked around at who was making strides in the industry. I approached Pat Baker who had just begun her journey and that was the beginning of my career with Baker Real Estate Incorporated.
Q: Can you share a defining moment in your career that shaped you today? Perhaps a moment where it took great courage to suggest innovation, cause a shift in status quo or effect a positive change?
As CEO, and previously as President, I have had a lot of input in the direction the company has taken. I always pushed for us to allocate resources toward advancements in technology. This year, we have introduced our new Baker Insights Group (B.I.G.). This initiative is powered by our own deep industry experience and state-of-the-art research, with detailed analysis from Special Market Advisor Ben Myers. B.I.G. provides developers with relevant real-time data and unprecedented insights required for successful design and sales strategies.
Originally, we took the technological lead years ago when we introduced our MyBaker Web App and Online Portal to connect more than 12,000 Baker Realty Partners around the globe and enable them to access product information anytime, from anywhere in the world. We also have project and market information available 24/7 on demand through our Reporting System, a private portal for clients. Our iBaker Sales iPad App enables us to process deals in 10 minutes. Cheques and identification documents are scanned and entered automatically, and buyers sign on the spot. With all of this technology already in place, when the pandemic hit, we were able to regroup quickly and sell virtually to huge success. We sold out several projects this way. Now, we’re advancing in a BIG way again.
Q: What has driven your motivation to be, and stay, in the new development real estate industry?
When I look at Toronto’s growth, I find it thrilling and highly motivating to know that Baker Real Estate Incorporated played a part in selling many of the buildings that grace the City’s iconic skyline. In fact, I find everything to do with the industry exciting. I’m gratified to help in matching potential buyers with the homes and condominiums that best fit their needs and wants. It’s all about “home” — from location to every detail in the suites. Guiding people to the right place to call home is immensely satisfying.
Q: What excites you about the future of Real Estate and the market?
In a word, everything! This is an ever-evolving industry that is never boring. Despite its challenges, real estate will always be considered an essential service, as we found out firsthand when the pandemic hit in 2020. People will always need roofs over their heads, regardless of what is going on around us. New home real estate is an economic sector that will provide countless opportunities for decades to come.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
I came up through the ranks, so along the way, I did most of the jobs I now oversee. On the way, I learned that the key to leading a team to success is to keep your eye on your own ball! Focus on building your skills and business instead of what competitors are doing. I also know that making things personal is a major factor. Be obsessed with your customers and clients from the standpoint of helping them as much as possible. And take pride in what you do. Remember that in this world, people are motivated by convenience, so service is critical in our industry.
My education in leadership began with my father, Regimental Sergeant Major Henry Dixon, when I was growing up in Ireland. He believed that PEOPLE ARE EVERYTHING. He did tours of duty in Cypress and the Belgian Congo under the United Nations flag in Katanga and Cypress and was honoured with the Nobel Peace Medal. Throughout my career, I have focused on capturing and holding the interest of those around me, just as my father did.
Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders who are determined to effect change?
Where you place your attention is what will flourish in your life. Stay focused in keeping clients happy. And remember, PEOPLE ARE EVERYTHING. We may help to sell bricks and mortar buildings, but it is people who make it all happen. Go forward in your career with full conviction and heart. As automated as the world is becoming it’s easy to be busy. Instead, focus on being effective! People make some of the largest financial investments of their lives in Real Estate, the personal touch will always engender confidence.
Real estate has traditionally been a good and lucrative profession for women. We are the only ones who hold ourselves back. Look at the industry in a positive yet realistic way. If I had accepted the opinions of the “experts” who predicted doom and gloom over the years, I would not be where I am today. Demographics evolve, and we have our ups and downs. Keep a positive attitude, work hard, be honest and remember that in any career, you get out of it what you put into it. Women wield a lot of power in the real estate industry. Use it with integrity, and you will succeed.
Loved this story and want to read more? Check out the other incredible women featured in our blog: Influential Women in Canadian New Development Real Estate.
About Barbara Lawlor:
Barbara Lawlor is CEO at Baker Real Estate Incorporated. Among her accolades are inclusion as an Honouree at the 2019 BISNOW Toronto Power Women Commercial Real Estate Leaders event, a panelist at the Key Media International Conference in 2018 and winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, among other honours. She is also an in-demand columnist and speaker who is respected for her impactful industry voice. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in Canada in the GTA, Vancouver and Montreal, and internationally in Shanghai. Keep current with The Baker Blog.