40 YEARS OF MEDALLION: JEFF STEPHENSON IS THE FIRST AND ONLY MEMBER TO DO IT
In his 47th year of selling real estate, Jeff Stephenson is one of the most recognized REALTORS® in the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland and in his heyday, in the entire province.
This prolific and high-profile Fraser Valley member marked an important, one-of-a-kind milestone for himself and the Board recently. He became the first member to be recognized for achieving 40 consecutive years of Medallion status, which means being in the top 10 per cent of all sales people in the Fraser Valley; and in his case the top one per cent every year since 1971.
Stephenson remarks, “Point in fact it’s really 45 years, but at this point who’s counting?” The managing broker of Greyfriars Realty started in Coquitlam in 1966 and earned his first five years as a Medallion-qualifying member at the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV). Within two years of becoming licensed, he was the top-selling agent in Greater Vancouver and in BC. Unfortunately, his initial Medallion records, and those of everyone else in the day, were destroyed in a fire that gutted REBGV’s original board office.
However, even at 40 officially consecutive years of Medallion, he’s still in a class of his own. “There may be two or three others in Vancouver right behind me, but in Fraser Valley, I’ve either out-lived or out-lasted just about everyone.
“What I like when I go to the awards night is that the real wheels, the ones that do the bulk of the real estate business are the same wheels year after year. We all respect each other. Nobody messes with anybody.”
The straight-talking 70-year-old attributes his almost half century of success, albeit “not as hugely successful as he’d like to believe,” to two things: Advertising and work ethic. “I’m never late. Ever,” he says emphatically. “Plus, I’ve always worked harder than anybody else. From the start, I was obsessed with being number one in this province.
“I ran a sales meeting this morning at 9:30 followed by a business lunch, then this interview, next I’ve got a four o’clock appointment and then a seven o’clock tonight.” Stephenson says that any successful REALTOR® should have all appointments set two or three days in advance. And be prepared to do whatever it takes to get those appointments. If it means evenings and weekends, so be it.
“Do your own open houses. Advertise. Use conventional media or social media, I don’t care how you get the leads, just get them. Sit down with the people and find out what they genuinely want, and then work. Work seven days a week if you have to.
“Some of these young people today whose voicemail says ‘Any calls after six o’clock, I’ll return them in the morning’ or ‘I don’t do Saturdays or Sundays’—You’re not in the real estate business.”
Stephenson says in addition to his bullish work ethic (and some might say bullish personality, which he doesn’t disagree with), the reason his office still receives hundreds of leads every year is through word of mouth and consistent, relentless advertising. “When you’re in the business this long, if you don’t get a lot of referrals, you’re doing something wrong.
“I also… still… spend $30,000 a month on advertising… that’s every month! I’ve got the weekly, the back pages of the local papers, I’ve now got the wraps, I’ve got bus benches. I mass mail every client at least once every six weeks. So, everywhere you go, my mug is there.
“I don’t have to call people, they come to me.”
Stephenson adds that he has a luxury today that he didn’t have decades ago when he ran multiple offices and was the managing broker for hundreds of REALTORS®. “We’re a small team of eight to 10 or so and I now delegate just about everything. Joanne, Gloria or Caroline do most of the legwork prior to the closing and then I step in. I’ve got it made.”
Then almost as an afterthought, he mentions his personal mortgage company that now earns him more than his real estate business begging the question, why? “Why do I work? What else would I do? And to be really honest, I haven’t really worked since last October. I spent a few months in Cabo and then when it comes time to get back at it, I do. I don’t consider it part-time. When I work it, I work it.”
Working when he wants appears to suit Jeff Stephenson, whose gregarious energy belies his years. When asked to describe the skills that a REALTOR® needs to succeed for 47 years, he says, “Type A personality: aggressive, but not rude. You have to know when to back off.”
Stephenson says he knows that over the years his directness may have rubbed people the wrong way, but for good or for bad, he has no regrets. “I don’t think I’d change anything. You never know what you should have done until you’ve done it. Why turn the clock back? What does it accomplish? Look ahead and try to learn from your mistakes.
“To me being a professional REALTOR® means doing the best of your ability for whoever’s hired you, regardless of the consequences. If you don’t know the answer, find out. If you get into trouble, take responsibility.”
In his early days, his brand was the “guy with the pipe;” at least that’s the image that was splayed across Vancouver billboards until he quit smoking in the early 80s. Then he was just known for being Jeff. Direct. Uncompromising. Hardworking. The stationary salesman from Northern England went from selling pens, rulers and paper in the sprawling English countryside to closing amongst the highest number of real estate deals in Canada’s third largest city for over four continuous decades, a feat that few REALTORS® in Fraser Valley are close to achieving.
His new 40-year Medallion trophy, like him a one-of-a-kind, has one plate filled in for 2012 and four additional blank ones. “Seventy-five is a good time to stop, don’t you think? Or, maybe not. Ask me again in five years.“