Joining forces with a RE/MAX office was the right move for the bold leaders of a 78-year-old family-owned brokerage.
By Maegan C.M. Gilliland || Photography by David Vernon
As third-generation owners of an established independent real estate firm in Peoria, Illinois, Jeff and Wendy Kolbus never considered converting their business to another brand. Why would they?
The legacy owners of Traders Realty, an independent brokerage since 1937 with an outstanding reputation, they were an institution in their small market. Although they had been approached with several franchise offers through the years, they saw no reason to invest in another brand.
That is, until John Ginder called.
Ginder owned the “other” brokerage in Peoria, RE/MAX Unlimited. The two operations had been friendly competitors for years, but now Ginder was planning for his retirement and reached out to the Kolbuses to gauge their interest in acquiring his RE/MAX office.
“In a market of our size, there are a limited number of people who you can talk to about an exit strategy,” Ginder says. “I knew I needed to put feelers out there early for potential buyers, and I immediately thought of Jeff and Wendy.”
Ginder first contacted the Kolbuses about purchasing his business in 2010. Intrigued by the proposition, the Kolbuses decided to visit RE/MAX headquarters in Denver to learn more about the brand and the network.
“We were very impressed,” Wendy says of the trip. “We had spoken with many franchises over the years, but none of them made sense for us. However, when we went to Denver, we definitely saw the benefit of aligning with the top brand.”
Wendy mentions productive agents, brand recognition and corporate leadership as factors that set RE/MAX apart.
After a year of negotiations and planning, the Kolbuses finalized the transaction in September 2015, agreeing that Ginder would remain as Executive Vice President to assist during the transition. Combining the two separate firms’ names, RE/MAX Traders Unlimited was born.
A Smooth Transition
In short order, the move more than doubled the brokerage’s size from 50 to 120 agents including many from both offices who would go on to benefit from this strong merger.
Ginder’s continued presence was indispensable, Jeff says, and provided continuity of leadership. The two companies shared similar values including integrity, community involvement, respected leadership, and professional and educated agents.
Jeff and Wendy knew it would be a long process to make the full transition, but they were determined to make it as seamless as possible while continuing to provide a high level of service to the agents.
“Our first priority was making sure agents were able to keep selling and keep working for their buyers and sellers,” Jeff says. “We didn’t want to interrupt those relationships.”
I find that consumers identify immediately with the RE/MAX name. Lynn Carlile
Lynn Carlile, an agent with Traders Realty for 25 years who transitioned to RE/MAX Traders Unlimited, saw an almost immediate increase in listings.
“The move has greatly expanded our marketing platform,” she says. “I find that consumers immediately identify with the RE/MAX name.”
Mike Madanat was a relatively new agent at RE/MAX Unlimited when the acquisition took place. Although other brokers tried to entice him away during the transition period, he chose to stay on with RE/MAX Traders Unlimited.
“In the words of George Washington, ‘Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company,’” he says. “To have the RE/MAX name associated with mine and to be surrounded by the best of the best is a privilege.”
The Kolbuses say they’ve enjoyed the opportunity to network with and learn from fellow RE/MAX Broker/Owners at RE/MAX conventions and training seminars.
The RE/MAX Traders Unlimited tagline for 2016 is “Better Together.” The message to the Peoria-area community is that the acquisition is bringing positive outcomes to everyone.
The Kolbuses will also continue their long tradition of supporting their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Both Jeff Kolbus and John Ginder have served on the Children’s Hospital of Illinois advisory board for more than a decade.
“You have to support your community as much as they support you,” Wendy says.
As he prepares for retirement, Ginder, who carefully grew his business for more than 30 years, could not be more pleased with the outcome.
“Although it was a bit different, at first, to step aside and let Jeff and Wendy take the reins, I don’t have a single regret,” he says. “They are the right people to lead RE/MAX Traders Unlimited into the future.”
The Kolbuses also foresee a bright future for RE/MAX Traders Unlimited.
“With the best of both companies coming together and the support RE/MAX provides, we can become a destination where every agent will feel supported and can prosper,” Jeff says.