Long-time Barnicke veteran Colin Ross, appointed president of Canadian brokerage operations last month, takes the reins of a business that has switched from survival mode to one of expansion.
“We are now backed by a very stable, large company that has recurring revenue and a big pipeline” of business, said Ross. “Our business is transaction based, so it is great to have a parent that is that strong and is in for the long run. We had a family that owned us before from France and we never knew what was going to happen around the corner.”
Barnicke was purchased by Australia's UGL Ltd. and put under its main unit, property services supplier DTZ, an international property services powerhouse with 47,000 employees in 208 offices in 52 countries.
Ross, who previously ran Barnicke’s Toronto office, has now been tasked with developing and implementing DTZ's growth strategy for its Canadian transaction and advisory skill lines, with a focus on expanding business relationships with corporate occupiers, owners and developers, as well as government and public sector clients.
“Now we have a very long-term view and a growth industry” that comes from having UGL as a parent company, Ross said. “The reoccurring revenue that they have and their strong balance sheet support the investment and growth that we have to achieve globally for the DTZ business.”
The Barnicke base that Ross has to work with includes 19 offices from coast to coast, as well as the new ability to tap into a healthy U.S. business. “DTZ in the U.S. is going to be a huge help. There is already a lot of cross-border business that we are doing together.
“Having brokers in the U.S. is a huge add for us,” he said, along with “having the markets of Chicago, New York, L.A. and Boston feeding into Toronto.”
In Canada, what was formerly the Barnicke business was comprised of approximately 500 agents. As well, DTZ brings another 3,000 employees who work on the facilities management/project management and consulting side of the business that are now under the same DTZ group in Canada. That business was called Unicco until it was acquired by UGL a few years ago.
Make room for DTZ
While the brokerage business seems increasingly crowded, Ross sees plenty of room for DTZ to operate in and expand its market niche with addition of end-to-end advisory services, facilities management, energy audits and sustainability consulting.
DTZ’s expanded capabilities put it amongst only a few other companies that could offer seamless, national and international real estate service and advisory capabilities. Suddenly, DTZ can service “Fortune 1000” companies with multiple locations, he said. “I think what you will see from us is more multi-location work.”
In Canada, DTZ is now working for companies such as Shell, providing service for its network of petroleum stations across the country.
Opportunities abound for the new entity, a situation Ross marvels at. “We are still really looking at the integration of the facilities management side and all those people and what they can do for companies and are just still seeing what we can sell,” he said.
The facilities management group “does all the work at the ACC here in Toronto – from Manulife, to Brookfield, to Bentall – they do a lot of work for all the major landlords as well, so there are a lot of fits that we have.”
DTZ is currently ranked third globally behind CBRE and Jones Lang Lasalle with revenue of about $2.2 billion.
Ross predicts that DTZ in Canada “will definitely be in double digits.”
“We really want to concentrate on our agent’s income and driving that,” he said. “We may not be looking to become the largest by numbers but certainly by helping our agents with business development. Really ratchet up their incomes.”
Ross actually started his career with Barnicke, spending 15 years with the company right out of university before assuming a number of roles outside the real estate industry, including with Rogers Communications running its high speed Internet division and later with the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. He also worked for Brookfield before rejoining Barnicke to run the downtown office after it was purchased by DTZ.