At 10 years old, J. Lennox Scott was painting signs for John L. Scott Real Estate, the Seattle-based company established by his grandfather back in 1931. Today, Lennox serves as Chairman & CEO of the venerable firm, an acknowledged leader in the Seattle marketplace with more than $9 billion in sales volume last year.
Like his grandfather, Scott credits the firm’s service excellence and deep commitment to enhancing the customer experience as two key pieces that have contributed to the firm’s success over the years. Scott has also been a pioneer when it comes to integrating today’s technological advantage into his business model, as well as establishing a meaningful rapport with his broker associates and the communities they serve. “Our business is real estate,” observes Scott. “But our philosophy is living life as a contribution. That is the core value of who we are.” In this exclusive interview, Scott shares his passion for the firm his grandfather and father built, and his strategies for ensuring that the family-owned business is poised for the next wave of growth.
Barbara Pronin: Clearly, you grew up with real estate in your blood, Lennox. How did you prepare for and take on the leadership role?
J. Lennox Scott: I had great examples set by my parents and grandparents, and I was determined to live up to their standards. I not only painted signs as a kid, I even did yard work to spiff up the lawns of transferees who were selling their homes. Later, I studied business at the University of Washington and did my term papers on real estate. I realized the importance of the principles my dad and grandfather lived by—transactional excellence, putting your hand out in friendship and building trusted relationships. It meant a lot to me to get a real grounding in every aspect of the business. In 1980, I became CEO and then transitioned into the role of chairman and CEO in 2002.
BP: How many agents do you currently have and what regions do you serve?
JLS: We have more than 2,700 broker associates who closed more than 30,000 transactions last year. At this time, we have 110 offices located in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, but we’re looking into expanding our footprint through franchising our brand in other areas.
BP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in your marketplace? What sets you apart from the competition?
JLS: We are well positioned as a regional independent with a long and proven history of excellence in the markets we serve. I think what really sets us apart, though, is our approach to success. It starts with one of our core values: It’s about possibilities in our clients’ lives. We focus on one client at a time in order to help them reach their real estate goals. Our broker associates also go beyond the sales aspect of real estate. They educate and inform their clients about the market to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. By acting as a consultant instead of a salesperson, our broker associates become a trusted resource for their clients and the community.
BP: How would you describe current market conditions in your area?
JLS: We’ve experienced 36 straight months of robust housing recovery. It started in the major metro market areas of Seattle and Portland and continued to spread throughout the Northwest market areas. This past year, some 90 percent of our sales activity has been in price ranges where there’s a shortage of inventory. In all, we’re looking forward to more of the same as we continue through 2015.
BP: What has been your approach to growth in recent years, and is that changing now that the market is recovering?
JLS: Our approach to growth is always the same—a strategic focus on organic growth. Our goal is to help each individual broker associate go from good to great and then from great to greatness. Greatness comes from walking in excellence and from always feeding yourself positive energy. This approach is both an attractor for new team members and a way of life for our current associates.