By Connie Adair
Bill Meyer remembers it well – it was the Tuesday after Labour Day 1977, his first day in a law enforcement class so he could become an RCMP officer. “At two minutes to nine, some guy gets on stage and says into the microphone, ‘Bill Meyer. Call home immediately’,” says Meyer. It was a call that would change his life.
He was relieved when his father answered the phone, and confused. “My Dad said, ‘Some guy called and wants to know if you want to go to Moscow in 1980’,” he says. All Meyer could say to his Dad was, “What are you talking about? Where’s Mom?”
His Mom was fine. The unexpected call was from Olympic water polo coach Gabor Csepregi. Meyer, born and raised in Burlington, Ont., went to Ottawa (the centralized location for the Olympic water polo program) the next day and has lived there since. Although Meyer had played water polo on winning teams for years, he says, “I never anticipated making the Olympic team.”
When he joined, he was the youngest member but he trained hard and made the starting line up. Then disappointment – Canada boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Luckily he was young enough to continue with the team. He trained for the next four years, travelling to Europe and California as a member of Canada’s Olympic Men’s Water Polo Team. His other water polo accomplishments include bronze medals at the 1979 and 1983 Pan Am games.
The early ʼ80s were busy times for Meyer. He married in 1982, celebrated the birth of a daughter in 1983 and went to the Summer Olympics in California in 1984, where the team took 10th place. A year later he got his real estate license.
He started with Canada Permanent, which was bought out by Canada Trust shortly after. He sold real estate for five years, got his broker’s licence and managed a Canada Trust Realty office from 1990-1993. “I developed a good relationship with the banking part of the business,” he says. He wrote a job description for a role he thought was missing from the organizational chart – a regional manager of sales and marketing who would solicit real estate companies for their mortgage business. He filled that role for three years.
The next move in his Canada Trust career would have meant a move to Toronto, so Meyer chose another path. Friend Jeff Hooper had heard about a new real estate company in the U.S., Keller Williams. In 2001, with Hooper as owner and Meyer as manager, the first Keller Williams Ottawa Realty opened its doors.
Keller Williams was a training and consulting company for the real estate business. It was different than other companies at that time, says Meyer, who trained agents for a couple of years.
He went back to selling real estate, partnering with Sylvie Begin to create the No. 1 team for Keller Williams in Ottawa and a top 10 Keller Williams team in the country.
All the while, he kept one foot in the water, coaching for more than 22 years at Carlton University. “For years I said, ‘Some day I’m going to go back to school full time and be eligible to play varsity water polo’. This May was my 55 ½ birthday, my midlife. (I’m going to live until I’m 111.) This is the year I’m going to school full time,” he says he promised himself.
“Part of the beauty of having a team is that I’m not working 60 to 70 hours a week selling.” That said, “It was the busiest fall of my life,” he says. In addition to overseeing his real estate team, he juggles two online courses, goes to the university for a couple more and attends six water polo practices a week. “I’m full time in real estate sales, a full-time student and a full-time water polo player.”
Throughout his real estate career, he has been involved with water polo and has worked to stay in good physical condition. He says he can hold his own on the team.
“Out of 21 guys, from a speed point of view, I’m No. 7 or 8. For conditioning, I’m No. 7 or 8. For understanding of the game, No. 1 and for leadership No. 1,” says Meyer. He says his teammates know he deserves to be on the team.
At first, some team members may have wondered, who is the “weird old guy who can out-swim them? I can compete at this level,” Meyer says. “It’s even stranger when I turn up at other universities. They’re surprised I can beat them down the pool. I’m not a token old guy.”
Meyer has the support of those around him, including his real estate team. He is in the office at 8:30 or 9 am and works night-time showings around his water polo practices. “I’m good at organizing and blocking time.”
Admittedly, he’s not home as much these days. “I’m not home to watch Survivor like I used to be,” he says. His wife of 32 years, Cathy, supports his endeavours.
Water polo is a fall sport, going from September until the first week of December. Off season, practices are twice a week, so the pace won’t be as hectic now.
Real estate sales offers freedom, flexibility and for some, untold wealth, Meyer says. “It offers opportunity. It’s harder to be a single agent who does the average 10 deals, so build a bigger business to get that flexibility.” He recommends fellow agents have a plan to meet their goals.
Meyer’s daughter, Kayla, is following in her father’s footsteps. She started her real estate career this month. She gave up a good paying government job for the freedom and flexibility, he says.
Thanks to real estate, Bill Meyer has the freedom and flexibility to enjoy every moment. He encourages other agents to do the same.