By Kelly Putter
If Jennifer Gale was a betting woman she’d stake a fortune on her father, a highly competitive horse jockey, for imparting her with a strong backbone, an unparalleled focus and a killer instinct that’s earned her a spot as one of the top sales reps in Woodstock and Oxford County in Ontario.
“I’m a fighter and I won’t let anything tear me down,” says the 38-year-old Re/Max a-b Realty agent and single mother of two. “I’ve encountered a lot of circumstances where it would have been easy to fold and I didn’t. For whatever reason, adversity propels me.”
Them’s fighting words, for sure. Gale grew up in the small town of LaSalle outside of Windsor where she watched her father, a celebrated standard bred horse driver, suffer 47 broken bones over his career but still keep showing up for work.
“That instilled in me a fighting spirit,” she says. “There’s an attitude of ‘I’ve got to make it happen. No one else is going to do it for me.’ ”
Her success is definitely not of the horseshoe kind. Gale overcame a number of obstacles before recently hitting the Re/Max Platinum Club, a marker that means she’s reached earnings of $250,000-plus, an almost unheard of feat in a smaller marketplace such as hers.
“When I started out I did not know one single soul in this community and financially, I was on hard times,” she says. “I sold my first six houses without a car or cell phone. I was a single mom and I was hungry.”
A big-city girl previously living in Etobicoke, Gale left the bright lights behind nine years ago to build a life in the restaurant business with her then-husband. The couple sank all their money into Buddie’s, a restaurant and bar in Innerkip, about 12 km north of Woodstock. It lasted a year and Gale learned the hard way that feeding the public is not as glamorous as it looks.
“I couldn’t stomach people not giving me a tip,” she says with a laugh. “I couldn’t stand it. I mean, at least leave me a quarter!”
But perhaps it’s her hospitality background that has helped shape her real estate practice today. Her approach to marketing is fresh and modern and perhaps a bit unconventional, given that she’s practicing in a relatively conservative town known for its agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.
Gale has been known to throw feasts and spa parties to elicit interest in her higher-end real estate holdings. Key agents, home inspectors, lenders and top-notch clients are often invited to partake in these catered and well-stocked affairs.
She’s also held spa parties for female clients, including agents and mortgage brokers. Gale views the expense as the cost of doing business. Besides, she adds, it’s always a great night out with colleagues and friends.
“That’s more my element. I would rather approach people that way than try to hard sell them. It’s real and it’s relaxed and it’s who I am. I want to create an energy. I like the idea of bringing more urban ideas into a smaller community and I think we’re ready for change and progression.”
Is the schmooze and booze working? Seems to be. While Woodstock and Oxford County is comparatively small, she works hard at developing strategic relationships with high producers in surrounding cities such as London, Windsor, Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo for maximum agent-to-agent referrals. She has also developed core relationships with investors, builders and even a private sale company.
Gale has also implemented a successful investor program that she ties into her three-person property management company. About four years ago, she recognized a need in the marketplace for smaller landlords, the type who hold two or three properties. Today, she also finds tenants for her landlords, allowing them the freedom to buy more properties because the whole process has become seamless and headache-free.
“We sell homes to investors and guarantee a tenant before closing,” she says. “There’s a little more leg work but the return is worth it. We’ve developed some key relationships with people who own a lot of property and who ultimately sell properties. Last year, we had one client buy 11 properties and rent them all out. It’s a really small, minute niche that a lot of Realtors shy away from.”
A former interior designer, bartender and event planner, Gale is a firm believer that life, like business, is all about the experience and the energy you bring to it and draw from it. This philosophy has become something of a mantra at home with her daughters Lola, 8, and nine-year-old Chloe.
“I try to teach my girls about good values and happiness and how to have fun,” she says. “I want them to look at art and design and the beauty in life. We talk about people that have struggles in the world and see the beauty in someone overcoming something and realize there are greater issues than the problems we have. There are beautiful stories out there about how people overcome adversity. Those stories can help put things in perspective so they can get over smaller things like people making fun of their hair that day.”
Gale’s growing business success hit a plateau a few years ago so she decided to hire a coach to help her over the hump. She implemented simple but invaluable strategies such as waking up an hour earlier and posting her business goals around her home and work space. She worked out feverishly, which she says was a game changer. In a short time, she managed to hit and even surpass her goals.
Gale is now in the midst of forming a real estate team with Valerie Mounsteven, formerly of Royal LePage, and a full-time assistant, Karie Montgomery. The trio is looking at building an even bigger team under the Re/Max banner. They’re hoping to bring a fresher look to their business and they’ve hired a graphic designer to help revamp and rebrand the team’s look.
“We have an amazing chemistry together,” says Gale of Mounsteven and Montgomery. “There will be learning curves but we’re in it together and we have a really good team energy.”