The New Closers: For Broker Katya Shabanova, It's All About Building Client Relationships
For Katya Shabanova, being a successful broker in downtown Toronto involves more than 12-hour days and endless meetings, research and presentations.
“A lot of it is building relationships with clients. It’s very interesting to see how different people are, what they like, how they like our work done for them, what their needs are. There’s a lot of psychology that you don’t think of,” said Shabanova, a Cushman & Wakefield broker and recent recipient of a SIOR 2017 Young Professional of the Year Award.
“Usually the bigger a client, the more demanding they are because they have very high standards internally. They expect us to live up to that. The biggest part is getting them to like you. “
At 28, the native of Omsk, Russia, has been making a name for herself in Toronto commercial real estate for five years. Paired with veteran Cushman & Wakefield broker George Tedder, Shabanova worked on more than 50 transactions ranging from under $1M to over $1B in value last year.
Shabanova comes by her career naturally — her father worked in real estate in Russia. Still, moving to Canada at the age 16, her first priority was learning the language, which she accomplished quickly while attending the Bishop Strachan boarding school in Toronto.
“I always thought I would be in investment banking. I don’t know why. I just always thought stocks was what I wanted to do,” said Shabanova, who has a finance degree from the University of Western Ontario.
“My dad is in real estate. So I kind of grew up with it, but I never really thought it was a career path for me. I’m not sure why. I never really considered it. And then when I started looking at places to work after university, it kind of came back to me.”
While working in research at Cushman & Wakefield, she approached Tedder about an associate position working with him. Tedder, who has more than 30 years in the business, did not appear to initially take to his future partner.
“There’s this long story about he didn’t like me at first. I was very quiet then; very shy. And he thought I was just really bitchy because of it. He just assumed that I was even though I was just really shy,” Shabanova said.
She continued to call Tedder for the next few weeks.
Tedder said he did not immediately hire Shabanova, but that was sort of his strategy.
“That’s what I look for: tenaciousness, aggressiveness, forthright, in your face, which you have to be in this business,” he said.
“There’s a lot of volatility — a lot of unpredictable things. And if you can have the kind of fun that we have and the friendship that we’ve got, it makes it that much easier. I’m very proud to call Katya my partner.”
“If you go on [maternity] leave, you can’t just take a year off. Your clients aren’t going to wait for you. You have to start all over from the beginning almost,” she said. “It’s starting to get better but it still is very much a boy’s club.”
Not surprisingly, Sabanova's spare time includes involvement with numerous industry organizations: She is a committee member of both CoreNet and NAIOP, a chair of the fundraising event Women Behaving Boldly and an advisor for Junior Achievement.
Shabanova said one current work-related challenge is space — or the lack of it. Like a lot of GTA brokers these days, finding vacant space for clients is an ongoing struggle.
“I will say we had our best year ever in the amount of business we’ve had. But we’re definitely struggling in finding appropriate spaces for our clients. It’s very competitive and it’s getting more competitive because of how good the market is right now.”
Shabanova said the age of technology and easily accessible information has made her job easier in some ways, and potentially more difficult when it comes to clients.
“A lot of our clients are super-sophisticated. So they would do their own research, so we have to always be ahead of them,” she said. “We have to come up with conclusions that they would not think of themselves basically. It’s a lot of managing everyone’s expectations."