Q&A with VP Strategy at McOuat Partnership, Lianne McOuat
We were lucky enough to speak to Lianne about her incredible journey and passion for the real estate development industry.
Learn about how her and her siblings have woven their familial dynamic into their firm and how it’s become not only their success differentiator, but their strategic advantage.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about how you got your start in the industry?
Our father started the company in the early seventies and ever since has been specializing in real estate development, working with every kind of vertical in the real estate world, whether it’s low rise, mid rise, high rise, the retirement industry, multifamily apartment, industrial, commercial, and retail, anything. If it’s real estate, we touch it.
We’ve had the opportunity to work on over 3,000 communities across Canada, North America, and the Caribbean. We say that we are the most experienced real estate marketers in Canada, because we’ve been at it for close to 50 years, but also because we have had the chance to work across so many different provinces, cities and countries in North America.
Our dad retired about eight years ago. My three brothers, my sister and myself have all been here working with him basically since we graduated university, which was natural for us to be honest. It was a very cool company and we all were kind of in the communications field at university. We get along great and so we thought: Why not all work together?
My dad definitely pushed us in that direction but a lot of our clients are also family businesses. In the real estate world, it’s very common, and they really appreciate the fact that we are also a family business. We really view every client relationship as more than a transaction but also as building something long term. So, we’ve been lucky enough to have clients that worked with our father and now we work with their children as a multi generational company. or even heading into potentially a third generation with one of our clients.
My daughter’s ready to come into the business when she graduates university and it’s the same for one of my clients’ daughters, they know each other and get along and they’re like, “hey, we’re gonna work together.” So maybe it will be third, fourth generations. We’re really blessed in that way our father setup this incredible legacy for us.
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?
I think working so closely with my father for so many years, people would call me mini Chuck. But we spent a lot of time together driving to see sites, traveling together to go to developments, just soaking up everything. He’s a bit of a guru and he loves to teach. There’s always a lesson in everything he says. But when he retired, I had to really claim my seat at the table and be able to say that, yes, I am my father’s daughter, but at the same time I’m also my own person.
I can refer to his lessons throughout meetings. I’ll say, well, if there’s one thing my dad taught me, and I’ll sort of pull these little tidbits out, but at the same time I’ll use my own experience that I’ve developed along the way. I feel like having that seat at the table started maybe in my mid thirties. I spent my twenties and my early thirties kind of figuring out my own position on things and then by the time I was in my mid thirties, he wasn’t even at the meetings anymore and the clients were turning to me and asking me my opinion on things.
I think I probably have honed this over the years because, especially in your twenties when you’re trying to figure out your seat at the table and how you’re going to interact with everyone. Sometimes it’s easier to just sit back and read the room and not sort of lean in immediately. And I feel like in my twenties, I probably leaned in a little bit too much because I was trying to prove myself.
I was doing coffee and being an assistant to a lot of our senior account executives in my early twenties, but I would be a little bit too aggressive and I found that it wasn’t working for me. You do have to kind of figure out what works for you so I learned to read the room and figure out where can I fit into this?
This has then translated into the management of our team because we have 40 staff and I’ve taken a keen interest in the HR side of things and really understanding the wellness and the work life balance of our team members. It wasn’t until I was a mom that I really figured that that was important. Having that empathy for our team members and just figuring out how to manage people and how to win people over is something that I have honed in our management.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
I think winning the Business Excellence Award this year in terms of how we approached the shutdown of our office, I’m really proud of the fact that we did everything right. We put the safety and mental well being of our staff ahead of the dollar and it’s really hard for companies to do that. It’s not that everything was easy, we still stayed very busy, but at the same time, we were staring down the unknown and we have 40 people that we employ.
We didn’t lay off one person and that was because we are excellent planners. We had our projections. We have our buffers and we took it on the chin a little bit and that’s what you do when you’re an entrepreneur and when you’re leading a company. You just make sure that your people are taken care of. They actually got together behind our backs and they made a plaque for us which they couriered to us, and then on a conference call my brother opened it up and it just said how much they appreciated that we had their back during COVID.
I think COVID taught all of us a lot, but as a business owner, you’re nothing without your team. We love employing people, we really love making sure that the wellbeing of their families are being taken care of at the same time. We really try to make sure that we treat them like family because we are family.
Q: What has driven your motivation to be, and stay, in the new development real estate industry?
I get my value in pleasing and having people turn to me and say: “What do you think, Lianne? What has your experience been in this?” I love sharing knowledge.
Real Estate is a great business, right? Advertising Marketing is great and we get to do marketing and advertising for different types of industries as well. I’ve worked in a whole bunch of different sectors. But real estate has this incredible full circle opportunity.
For example, I live in a community that we actually marketed in 1997. It won Best Planned Community. We won all sorts of awards for it and we were involved in the actual conceptual design of the community. It’s a unique Rear Lane style Master Planned Community. I remember the sales office, the video, running through the field with my clipboard in hand at the ground breaking when the developer flew in on a helicopter. I remember the first Christmas tree lighting that we had in the community, all of it, and then watching the masterplan grow. And that was in my twenties, by the time I was in my thirties and I had a family, I decided I wanted to go live in that community. My next door neighbour, one day over the fence was telling me he remembered the sales office, he remembered the video and that he bought here because he got a direct mail flyer in The Beach where he lived. I was the one that decided that direct mail was going to go to him, I planned out where that flyer was going to go. I could have sent it to a different area, but he got the flyer, he was excited, he was hyped by the video. We helped his entire life direction.
Real estate is about life direction, it’s the biggest purchase you’re going to make in your life, the biggest decision in terms of where you’re going to go and we get to play an integral role in that.We’re really lucky in this industry, it propels the economy, it gives so many jobs to so many different types of consultants and businesses. So we’re really lucky.
Q: What excites you about the future of Real Estate and the market?
I got involved maybe five years ago in the Prop Tech world with another incredible female entrepreneur named Deena Pantalone. My father worked with her father, and now the two of us work together. She is a rare female in the Venture Capital space in the PropTech world. She and I have been working together for quite a few years and she turns to me when there are startups that come to her with interesting PropTech ideas. I think a lot of startups look to Deena as a builder that can beta test whatever the product is that they are developing. And then there’s me as a connector and I’m able to introduce them to our network. We have about 65 builders and are able to bring the builders on board to help them. I love anything that is in the technology space for the building environment is where I’m excited. Spark is one of those things and the PropTech world, right? But there’s a lot of other really cool things that are out there. I love working with Deena on that, and that’s kind of a side venture from McOuat Partnership for me.
There are many unknowns and the market does feel like a bit of a frenzy right now. It makes me nervous. I’ve been through some ups and downs in the market. Everyone should get into ownership and buy as soon as possible because we really don’t know where things are going to go. But I think builders and developers seem to be paying more attention to the design of the home, to the designing of the communities and to the experiences that can be created through community design. They’re looking at the wellness of the residents in the houses, whether it’s better air quality within the home or more interesting use of outdoor space. I think that’s definitely where things are heading right now. COVID has brought that to the forefront for sure.
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 Lianne McOuat:
Lianne is VP Client Service and Strategy at McOuat Partnership.
Having joined the company her father started in the mid 70’s, Lianne McOuat earned her seat as VP of Client Services and Strategy through a honed methodology, and passionate belief in strategic thinking, which has grown the McOuat Partnership into a dynamic marketing force.
A veteran of over 1000 real estate projects and a trusted advisor of all things real estate in the Greater Toronto Area, Lianne started with McOuat Partnerships as an assistant freshly after graduating from university. Now, with more than 25 years of experience under her belt, Lianne directs a 15-person Account Services team on 100 projects across Canada, the US and the Caribbean.
Through her advanced knowledge of strategic marketing initiatives, Lianne and her team have won numerous awards including Marketing Excellence from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Best Advertising Campaign from the Ontario Home Builders’ Association and Project of the Year from the West End Home Builders’ Association.