At 9 years old, J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate in Seattle, was painting signs for his father’s business—John L. Scott Real Estate. “My brother and I would set up the for-sale signs and paint the base and top color, then it would go off to get the stencil letters,” says Scott, the third generation leader who’s currently celebrating his 50th year in the family business. “The company is 81 years old,” he says. Scott’s grandfather founded the brokerage in 1931, and his father also ran the business until his death in 1977.
By age 13, Scott was working on a yard crew to overhaul corporate houses. “Every time we fixed up a house, it would end up selling quickly. I learned a lot of lessons early on,” says Scott.
At 16 years old, Scott worked at a title company. “This was before computers. I posted deeds in the books by hand. In fact, every once in while I’ll see my initials on a deed,” laughs Scott.
During his college years, he continued to work for the brokerage, tracking market activity, growth and researching the market. “Our company has always done a lot with builders, and my job was to do the research that would help guide them to areas of development.”
Of course, in 1976 at age 22, Scott, who had just graduated from college, moved seamlessly into a sales position with the brokerage. “I went into land sales. The experience I had at the title company tracking sewer lines, water lines and more, helped tremendously. We sold a lot of land that year.”
The following year was a tough one for Scott. “My father passed away when I was 23 years old, and I inherited the company. In 1980, I became president. Of course, within four months of me becoming president, interest rates skyrocketed to 16 percent,” he says. In 2000, Scott became chairman of the company.
Through it all, Scott has maintained his grandfather’s and father’s legacy by adhering to the core principals established some 50 years ago. “Quality service is all that counts. We do the right job for each, individual client. To us, it’s about the relationship and being involved in the community.”
And, business was different back when his father and grandfather ran the company, but the core remains true. “I remember walking down streets of Seattle, and my granddad knew everyone in town because of his involvement in the community. When I was in high school, sales associates would come to our house in the evening to train. It’s core to our business. While industry continues to evolve there’s no substitution for a education.”
But, more than that, Scott has seen the market evolve through good times and bad. “Just being through the different recessions was a big learning experience for me, and it helped me prepare for the recent recession,” he says.
However, he says, real estate hasn’t changed at its core. “The trust relationship stays the same. Sure, because of technology and the Internet things have changed around the transaction, and we’ve stayed on top of that. The Internet is a relationship tool.” In fact, the brokerage had its entire inventory up on the Internet in 1995. “In 1996, our region was the first to have IDX, so that year we had all competitors listings on our website and vice versa. I was a major advocate for that concept to empower the local brokerage through their sales associates,” he says. In 2005, interactive maps came out. “Now the mobile apps are the future,” he says.
And, Scott is focused on the future. “Down the road I see opportunities with the push-button transaction process. We’ll all be paperless and push the “go” button, and the transaction process will be seamless.” Scott says that will create freedom for the broker associate to do more business, “because they don’t have to track the process.”
That’s a big change from when Scott purchased the first Hewlett Packard company computer. “It was around 1979 or 1980, and we knew we needed a computer, but we had no idea what we’d use it for,” laughs Scott. “It actually sat in the box for about six months. My granddad couldn’t figure out why I’d spend so much money on it.”
Regardless, Scott insists that nothing has changed in the real estate business. “The core is so strong in that trusted relationships are all that matter. Of course, tech speeds this process up but the Internet is just advertising. The basics of our business are the same: bringing value to our clients. I’m excited about 2013.”