John Welch, an Associate Vice President in Toronto’s Office Leasing division, is an award-winning broker who specializes in the downtown market and has represented a long list of large corporations. Still going strong, John has rolled with relentless changes that have transformed Toronto, client priorities, brokerage, and our firm. Through it all, he’s retained many clients and renewed some leases four and five times over.
John first joined Royal LePage Commercial (now Cushman & Wakefield) in 1969 as a corporate pilot to the President. After two years, he transferred to the Office Leasing Division. Among other credentials, John maintains a Canadian Airline Transport Pilots License and First Class Marine Certificate in Radio Telephony and Telegraphy from the U.K.
Below, the high-flying executive grounded in Toronto’s new office answers a few questions about the past and his steadfast focus on the future.
What year did you join the firm, in what office, and what role?
John Welch: I joined A.E. LePage in April 1969 as a Corporate Pilot to the then President, Gordon C. Gray, who was a true ground breaker in our industry. After two years, I decided to transfer to the residential department of the company, where I become a member of the Presidential Round Table (top producer) in my first year. I joined office leasing in 1974, where I’ve been ever since.
Briefly describe your day-to-day activities.
John: My activities focus on assisting long-term clients. I have the good fortune of not having to make cold calls any more, as most clients call me for repeat business!
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the decades?
John: In the early days of no computers, the office operated on a card index system. It seemed to work very well, but was a far cry from today’s technology!
Describe some high points in your career.
John: A signature deal would be leasing two-and-a-half floors on a short-term lease to Royal Trust at 33 Yonge with George Tedder in the late eighties. The sub landlord asked me once the deal was done, how much were our fees. I cheerfully responded, ‘oh, just one month’s rent.’ He was in shock when he realized that was $750,000! George asked me if he should buy me a Cadillac.
If you had to describe yourself in just three words, what would they be?
John: Honest, integral, and caring.
If you could have dinner with any one person, living or dead, who would he/she be, and why?
John: Dinner preference would be Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon. As a pilot, I have huge respect for his amazing achievement and he was known to be a real gentleman.
What have you liked about working for Cushman & Wakefield?
John: Since I joined the company, we have moved from 50 Holly St, TD Centre, 33 Yonge, and now BCE Place. Our new location is outstanding and one of the best things that’s happened during my tenure—love it and Thirsty Thursdays!
What are some of the secrets to your personal success?
John : Joining a club to meet people both for recreation and business. In my case, I joined the National Yacht Club (NYC) in downtown Toronto in the late seventies and it’s been an excellent source of contacts and revenue. Also, through a cold call in 1984 to the CFO of the former Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), we were able to secure that account for close to 20 years. The former CEO is still a good friend at the NYC. Once you see an opportunity, don’t ever let go!
What’s one or two things that many of your colleagues would not know about you.
John: Back in the early nineties, I had a deal conditionally done for 25,000 square feet at 208 Queens Quay, which fell through because the CEO’s assistant thought it was too far from the downtown core. However, I really did not lose, as I married his assistant Julie!
What do you see as becoming the biggest future drivers of change for clients and real estate strategies as we move forward?
John: The future is now. Our new headquarters office in Toronto is a prime example; six months from now who knows? At the end of the day, personal intervention, regardless of technology, is how deals get done.
What advice do you offer young people getting into the business today?
John: Stick with it, cold call, don’t take no for an answer, use your resources. When I started, I was given an interior office, a pen, and a pencil, and a phone book, that was it!