After 16 years as Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Real Estate Association, Ed Barisa has announced his retirement. His last day will be Dec. 1. The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter spoke with him as he reflected on his years at the helm of OREA.
Q: What have been some of your favorite things about working at OREA?
A: The great staff we have assembled at OREA. We work hard but we also try to have some fun along the way and I’ve truly enjoyed working with talented colleagues from so many diverse backgrounds and fields. OREA is truly a microcosm of Toronto. The same can be said of the many REALTORS® whom I have met over the years. As well, several of our past OREA presidents have become good friends of mine. It’s all about the people, and I have developed many friendships that I hope will continue after my retirement.
Q: What do you feel are some of the highlights of your years at OREA?
A: One thing I’m particularly proud of is the fact that we have kept OREA’s finances in order. It is a large and sound financial operation that has continued to remain on solid financial footing.
I’m also pleased about the expansion and renovation of the original building. We went from a space that had curtains flapping in the wind, leaky windows and no insulation to a building that has since been LEED certified — a building that is not only professional looking but environment friendly that our staff, members and students can be proud to enter.
Q: How would you describe your approach as CEO?
A: It’s been a collaborative effort devoted to solving problems. I’m not a micro manager and I have always aimed to be informal and approachable in the office. Everyone calls me Ed. I believe that the way to earn respect is by respecting other people. I’ve always tried to treat people with respect, whether they are staff in the Call Centre or receptionists or the President of OREA. They are all people doing different jobs.
“I have promised Joe-ann some quality time for travel. We are fortunate to have visited some 65 countries to date, and we’d like to reach the ‘century club’.”
Q: What do you feel are some of your biggest accomplishments at OREA?
A: I’ve been pleased to negotiate several contracts with the Real Estate Council of Ontario. I’m also proud of the fact that OREA is one of very few associations with a leadership development program, one that has been purchased by an organization as prestigious as the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR®) in the United States. I’m also proud to have hired some really excellent senior managers. Leaving OREA with a healthy financial reserve and keeping membership dues at the lowest level of any provincial real estate association are also points of pride.
Q: What have been some of the greatest challenges?
A: What I’ve found tough is something I describe as OREA’s “cognitive bifurcation”. In other words, the fact is that we actually serve two masters: boards or associations as well as individual members. This is a challenge for OREA. Our real estate boards and associations have ranged in size from 40,000 members to 55 members over the years, and we must also serve individual REALTORS®. This dichotomy has resulted in varying levels of service, which has been a challenge in meeting all needs. OREA’s upcoming governance review will be looking at this and other issues to explore ways to meet these challenges down the road.
Q: Are there any things you would do differently in retrospect?
A: Absolutely. Mistakes are our greatest teacher. I have made my share of mistakes over 16 years, but fortunately none of them have been disastrous because the association is still around and I’m still around!
Q: What motivates you or gets you up in the morning?
A: Each day I looked forward to doing something interesting, and working in collaboration with smart people. That has been a real charge for me, and a great pleasure.
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make, and if so, what are they?
A: I would like to thank my wife, Joe-ann, for her love and support. Without her, I would not have had the success I enjoyed at OREA. She has been a great advisor and helped keep me sane when moments of insanity threatened to overcome me! I’d also like to thank Dinaz Garda, Manager of Executive Office Operations, for her guidance and support, and for letting me know where I needed to be and what I needed to have with me when I got there.
Q: What are your plans after retirement?
A: I have promised Joe-ann some quality time for travel. We are fortunate to have visited some 65 countries to date, and we’d like to reach the “century club”. I have served on various boards, both voluntary and paid, and I would like to continue applying my learnings in some capacity that way. I have a couple of consulting opportunities that I would like to explore to keep the brain ticking over. I enjoy spending time with Joe-ann, and so having some time without deadlines, meetings, weekend travel, and evening business dinners is looking very good right now.
Q: Do you have any parting words or advice to share?
A: There are two quotes that I’d like to share. The first is from Albert Einstein: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” The second quote is from Oscar Wilde, and was allegedly displayed on a sign that Einstein kept on his desk: “A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.”
I believe that both of these ideas will be important for future leaders, staff and members of OREA.