By Wendy Helfenbaum // Photos by Christian Fleury
An elite water polo player must be as accurate as a baseball pitcher, as gritty as a hockey player and as strategic as a chess master, all with the endurance of a marathoner. Fortunately for Georges Bardagi, one of the top RE/MAX producers in Canada, those traits transfer nicely into real estate as well.
During a 25-year competitive water polo career – including six on Canada’s national team – Georges Bardagi’s size and strength earned him a key back-row spot, supporting his teammates and making big decisions. “I played like a quarterback, calling the shots,” he says.
He does the same thing at the highest level of real estate. Bardagi, a Broker Associate at RE/MAX du Cartier in Montreal, Quebec, leads a dynamic team that’s been No. 1 in the RE/MAX Quebec region since 2004, and ranked No. 4 worldwide in 2010 and No. 5 in 2011. The 10 agents and 10 support staffers on Team Bardagi cover high-end Montreal neighborhoods such as Outremont, Town of Mount Royal and Plateau Mont-Royal. Bardagi and his sales manager focus exclusively on sellers, while the other team members work mostly with buyers.
“My goal was to create a small, highly qualified, efficient team, with me as the day-to-day leader in the field,” says Bardagi, 45, from his office on Bernard Avenue. A slew of RE/MAX medals hang on the wall behind him, along with photos of himself posing with the last Stanley Cup his beloved Montreal Canadiens brought home.
Bardagi appreciates winners, and his real estate career grew out of his desire to think big.
“Real estate is a tough business, and water polo is a tough sport,” Bardagi says. “In both, you have to compete as hard as you can, while keeping your ethics and honesty.”
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
At age 20, while studying marketing at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Bardagi opened an Italian restaurant with some friends, where he did everything from purchasing supplies to serving customers. After selling the business the following year, he dabbled in import/export until his best friend, Tony Bacile, a RE/MAX Affiliate, suggested he try his hand at real estate.“I had a lot of ambition,” says Bardagi, the son of a Lebanese father and a French mother.
After earning his license in 1991, Bardagi joined Bacile in a windowless office in trendy Outremont, a leafy neighborhood north of downtown Montreal.
“When I first started, I paid for my ads with unemployment checks from my previous job,” Bardagi says. “I threw everything I had into real estate, and worked 72 hours a week, no days off, no vacation. For three months, I didn’t sell anything, and I was losing money. But I stuck with it.”
Bardagi’s first sale – on a $97,000 home in the suburbs – sparked a hot streak. He sold another dozen properties before year’s end, and was named RE/MAX Quebec’s Rookie of the Year.
“I still have that trophy,” Bardagi says with a grin.
A Solid Image
Bacile left real estate in 1995, and two years later, Bardagi decided to bring in some help.
“I realized that a lot of tasks can be delegated,” Bardagi says. “You should be aware of the value of your time. Today, we have as many admin staff as agents, which is unusual – but it’s important. My team members don’t have to worry about photos, brochures or marketing – everything is taken care of. That allows them to be on the street doing what they love: showing properties and closing deals.”
Team Bardagi now occupies an entire floor in the same building where he first started out. All members have signed the 11-point Bardagi Code of Conduct, which includes pledges to put the team’s interests ahead of their own, seek out professional development opportunities and bring in ideas to improve sales. It’s a true team concept in which everyone plays a vital role in the group’s success.
Innovation at Work
From the beginning, Bardagi forged his own path, ignoring what his peers were doing, such as advertising homes one at a time.
“I felt that all of my clients should be advertised all the time,” he says. “Other agents said ‘Georges, you’re going to blow your budget.’ But I featured every one, every week. How can you tell a client it’s not their turn? It didn’t make sense to me. We still advertise our listings every week in the major Montreal papers.”
Embracing technology early on was another way Bardagi stood out. He was among the first in Quebec to use 24-hour hotlines, providing clients with access to information about a property anytime. His office was quick to launch a mobile site for smartphones, and the Bardagi Team has its own YouTube channel. If a client cancels an appointment, Bardagi – never one to sit back – will dash outside with a staffer and create an impromptu video designed to win the business back.
“YouTube videos are an excellent way of explaining my views on real estate to clients and colleagues,” Bardagi says. “I’m not a video pro, but I believe in the concept, so I hired somebody full-time who majored in social media. He manages our Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. He tweets my thoughts on real estate all the time and makes sure our message is out there.”
Listen: How Bardagi Uses Social Media
Using the Brand
Bardagi takes full advantage of RE/MAX resources. He understands that in Quebec, where RE/MAX market share is close to 40 percent, the brand gives him unique competitive advantages that just can’t be replicated.
“When I walk into a home, I don’t have to sell RE/MAX, because it’s the biggest-selling real estate brand in the world,” he says. “RE/MAX TV and radio ads and billboards are always present in people’s minds in Quebec; I could never do that on my own.”
Bardagi has seen firsthand the power of the global network. “Last month I received a referral from a RE/MAX agent in Malta; he’s sending me a really good customer who’s going to establish his family here in Montreal,” Bardagi says. “The RE/MAX referral system has been very effective for us.”
Feeling he had a wealth of knowledge to share, Bardagi began coaching other Realtors eight years ago. Through a program called Coaching Bardagi, he offers monthly sessions covering such topics as objection-handling, team organization, time management and creating a corporate image. Once a year, he also stages a wildly successful one-day conference for 500 agents and brokers called Virage Bardagi (Bardagi’s Formula).
“People say, ‘Georges, are you crazy? Why are you giving all your tricks to your competition? You must be nuts!’” Bardagi says with a laugh. “And I say, ‘If I give them all the tricks, and they apply them, every broker’s going to be better; my profession’s going to be better.’ Also, it forces me to improve: If I give out all my secrets, then the next year I have to have new ones.”
Listen: Why Bardagi Shares His Secrets
Bardagi has the same passion for his work as he did back in 1991.
“This is a beautiful profession,” he says. “You enter a family’s life for a few months and take on their problems or their dreams: divorce, being transferred, having a baby or sometimes just wanting to upgrade to a bigger home. We guide them through the process and make things as smooth as possible. What better way to serve someone? In the end, this is a dream job.”
The Active Life
His water polo days behind him, Georges Bardagi now stays in shape by playing tennis and golf with his wife, Caroline, and ball hockey twice a week.
Bardagi passed his athletic prowess on to his teenage daughters, Justine, 16, and Camille, 13, who play competitive volleyball. “Every Saturday, I’m in a gym somewhere, watching their games. That’s one huge advantage of having more staff and using the latest technology: I have the free time to do things like that.”