This week, we sat down with three of Form’s partners, David Morris, Jack Allpress and Jon Buckley, for a little Q & A about the story of Form.
Form Real Estate Advisors was started as a boutique retail brokerage in 2010, beginning as a team of four in a small office on Alberni Street in Vancouver. The company has since grown to a team of 20, expanding to a new office and branching out into other areas of commercial real estate, and into different provinces. Today, Form has completed over 4 million square feet of lease transactions, and over $1.8 billion in sale transactions on behalf of Canada’s preeminent retailers and landlords.
When and what prompted your career in commercial real estate?
- Dave: “My family is in development, which is how I became interested. I did my first ribbon-cutting at a shopping centre when I was 10 years old, so I was naturally exposed to it. I went to school for hotel and restaurant administration, because I wanted to own a hotel out in the middle of nowhere. I had a fork in the road moment where I had to choose between a job as a water sports coordinator at Club Med, which was my dream job, or a research assistant at CB Richard Ellis. A moment of maturity came over me and I chose the CB Richard Ellis job. The rest, as they say, is history.”
- Jack: “My uncle is in commercial real estate in New Zealand; he kind of looped me into the industry. Also, in my previous world as a fishing guide I had a lot of guests in my boat from commercial real estate, and I always found them to be really interesting people and it seemed like an exciting industry to jump into.”
How do you know one another?
- Dave: “Derick and I got to know each other through our wives, who were college roommates. We were forced to go on a double date, which neither of us wanted to do, but we ended up becoming best friends. Jon and I knew of one another from growing up in West Van and by association through friends. Then there was a point when we would go out for drinks together with other people in the industry, and that’s where I really got to know him.”
- Jack: “I was the second hire at Form, and I knew Derick from my previous employer. Kind of. I met him on the day he resigned!”
Why did you choose to start Form?
- Dave: “Through dinners with Derick, conversations started to manifest naturally. It was a point in time with very few liabilities in life – doing well in our careers, no kids. We thought if there was ever a time to try this, it was now. So we went for it, jumped in. Shortly after, Derick and Jon were there. Turns out you need a managing broker’s license to start these things, which I did not know! We had already rented a space and everything. There were definitely some speed bumps in the beginning. It was kind of the perfect time to do it.”
- Jon: “If everything blew up, there was no dependents. It seemed like the right time to take a risk”.
What are you most proud of in relation to Form?
- Jon: ”I’m proud of being part of building the culture of a company that I feel also has a great reputation.”
- Dave: ”That’s what I would say. Our reputation is what I’m most proud of. People speak very highly of the company as a whole, people who know us and people who don’t know us. Anyone who’s ever seen our whole company out together at a function is always amazed at the camaraderie throughout the company, and how we all interact with one another. I think that is a testament to the company culture. That and our dress code…” Dave says poking fun at Jack, who has just returned from a trip and is dressed casually today.
- Jack: ”To echo Jon and Dave, it’s the culture and reputation. And the office itself; to be able to come in and work with people you’re excited to see and excited to collaborate with, and to watch their careers grow. It’s pretty special.”
What has been the most difficult part of branching out?
- Jon: “In the beginning it was brand recognition. It felt like when we were calling we were really having to sell ourselves. I would say ‘It’s Jon from Form’ and they would say ‘Who is that? Form who?’ It took a lot of hours to build up brand awareness.”
- Dave: “Trying to get to the scale of a company where we could sleep at night thinking ‘okay, we have a bit of money in the bank, we can pay our rent, we can pay the salaries.’ Getting to the point where it was a smooth operation was challenging. I totally underestimated the amount of detail that goes into [building a company!]”
- Jack: “Toughest part at the beginning was not quitting!” Jack jokes, and laughter fills the room. “Actually, the toughest part in the beginning was expectations, of ourselves and others. Trying to make sure we’re upholding the reputation and making good decisions. And [the quote on the wall],” Jack motions towards the Warren Buffet quote we have framed in the hallway, which reads: It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. “That was really hard to do in the beginning stages, but we knew it was the right thing to do. That, and brand recognition.”
What keeps you motivated to continue to grow the business?
- Dave: “Competitive nature, and maintaining what we’ve established today keep me motivated. In brokerage, you need to have a competitive edge to you. I certainly don’t correlate it to the headcount in the office; to me it’s more market share, winning the big pitches, winning the mandates that everyone wants.”
- Jon: “You need to want to be the best.”
- Jack: “It’s more competitive nature, being the first call, and people trusting us. We don’t need to have a big banner; they call us because they know we have our finger on the pulse and have the advantage of information.”
Where do you see Form in 10 years?
- Dave: “I think we’ll be in a vast array of disciplines: hopefully in multifamily, office, industrial. And modelling the same core values, just in different disciplines, continuing to polish up our reputation, and being best in class. Continuing to punch above our weight class.”
- Jack: “All that while maintaining the same culture, standards, ethics and principles.”
- Jon: “I can see us expanding into other service offerings as well, just expanding the breadth of the services we offer, and continually adapting.”
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
- Jon: “I’m all about family right now.”
- Jack: “I like to be outdoors hiking, skiing, fishing and biking. I also love learning about different cultures and food, and travelling.”
- Dave: “Family! Spending as much time with my kids, wife and dog as I can. Beyond that, fishing and travelling. Chasing the sun!”
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