First-ever Cana­dian in fran­chise hall of fame

National Post (Latest Edition) - - Financial Post -

Con­tin­ued from FP1

Thirty years later, he sits atop an em­pire that in­cludes the mas­ter fran­chise over all Cen­tury 21 lo­ca­tions in Canada as well as the Uniglobe Travel and Cen­tum mort­gage bro­ker fran­chises, which he founded.

But as he mused on his en­trance yes­ter­day into a hall of fame stud­ded with the likes of McDon­ald’s mes­siah Ray Kroc, Mr. Charl­wood, who is 66, couldn’t help but won­der: What’s next?

“There’s a big one yet,” he said. “I just have a real feel­ing. I want to try and do some­thing else.”

That’s on top of his plans to cre­ate a prop­erty man­age­ment busi­ness out of his Cen­tury 21 hold­ings and lever­age his mort­gage bro­ker­age fran­chises into his own bank. To­gether with his sons and sev­eral part­ners, he al­ready pre­sides over an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­na­tional fran­chis­ing net­work that over­sees 1,700 lo­ca­tions in nearly three dozen coun­tries. In 2006, his com­pany’s to­tal sales hit $2.7-bil­lion, along with plac­ing a sub­stan­tial value of mort­gages.

His fran­chis­ing abil­i­ties have been so re­mark­able that yes­ter­day he be­came the first-ever Cana­dian in­ducted into the hall of fame of the In­ter­na­tional Fran­chise As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents the world’s most pow­er­ful fran­chis­ing com­pa­nies.

“It’s kind of amaz­ing,” he said, al­though he ad­mits that — as with most of his ac­com­plish­ments — he had aimed for this hon­our. “I did say on a walk about a year ago that one day I’d like to be a can­di­date for that. I just never thought it would be now. I thought it would be in four or five years.”

No one ever ac­cused Mr. Charl­wood of be­ing short on am­bi­tion. Born in Ger­many and ed­u­cated in Eng­land, he im­mi­grated to Canada in the mid-1960s with $2,000 in his pocket and dreams of be­com­ing an air­line sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive. It did not take him long to fig­ure out that he wanted a big­ger salary than he could make by work­ing for some­one else.

At 30 years old, he turned down an of­fer to take an air- line vice-pres­i­dent po­si­tion, in­stead be­gin­ning work as a real es­tate agent. Work­ing 18hour days seven days a week, he quickly rose to be best in Bri­tish Columbia. It even­tu­ally cost him his mar­riage, but he quin­tu­pled his salary. And it was not long be­fore he bought his own re­alty com­pany, then be­came owner of the Cen­tury 21 fran­chise rights to Canada.

In less than a year, Mr. Charl­wood had 30 fran­chises signed up. He now has 400 in Canada and an­other 420 around the world. “He’s a sales­man’s sales­man. He can sell peo­ple vir­tu­ally any­thing if he sets his mind to it,” said Don Lawby, who has worked for Mr. Charl­wood for nearly 30 years and now serves as pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Cen­tury 21 Canada LP. “Ter­ri­ble per­son to ar­gue with; he al­ways wins. But at the same time peo­ple love to be around him.”

Early in his ca­reer, Mr. Charl­wood mulled a con­sid­er­able pur­chase of­fer for his Cana­dian fran­chise rights, but de­cided that, rather than take the cash and rein­vest in an­other com­pany, he would start an­other one of his own. Travel had “piz­zazz,” and he had ex­pe­ri­ence from his air­line days. In real es­tate, he had learned the ben­e­fits of nar­row­ing his fo­cus. He took the same prin­ci­ple to the travel busi­ness when he cre­ated Uniglobe, fo­cus­ing on a sin­gle air­line or sin­gle car rental com­pany and promis­ing to bring them sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness in ex­change for favourable pric­ing.

“Our motto was min­i­mize prod­uct, max­i­mize profit. A first in the in­dus­try,” he said. It’s a phi­los­o­phy he has ap­plied to the mort­gage bro­ker­age busi­ness, too. In five years, Cen­tum has grown to 170 lo­ca­tions across Canada.

Yet if there is one thing that stands out to his col­leagues, it’s not so much his busi­ness acu­men as his fa­nat­i­cal fit­ness. He writes down ev­ery kilo­me­tre he ex­er­cises — last year he walked 1,102 kilo­me­tres, ran 1,207 and swam 484. “He goes at 120 m.p.h. all the time,” said Bill Black­all, the gen­eral man­ager of Cen­tury 21 Pru­den­tial Es­tates in Rich­mond, B.C., which is Mr. Charl­wood’s old­est sur­viv­ing fran­chise lo­ca­tion.

“I’ve seen him jog in Toronto, Que­bec, Cal­gary, New­found­land, Hal­i­fax and Van­cou­ver. You look out your win­dow and the stupid guy’s out there jog­ging at 6 a.m. It’s like, ‘Gary, what are you do­ing?’ But that’s how he keeps his men­tal and phys­i­cal edge.”

BILL KEAY / CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE

Gary Charl­wood con­trols an em­pire that in­cludes the Cen­tury 21 mas­ter real es­tate fran­chise for all of Canada.

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