Making the case for - and out of - this Ivey alumna

By Paul Mayne
February 07, 2013

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Some creative use of social media by her real estate company has sparked an interest from Sherry Chris’ alma mater. The 2001 graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business Executive MBA program, and current president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in New Jersey, will be the focus of a new case study developed by Western’s business school.

“The case study method is such a great way to learn, and it was a personal goal of mine to be able to participate in a case to give back to the school,” said Chris, who has been in the real estate business for 30 years. “To have accomplished that is beyond cool. It is a milestone I am very proud of.”

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Chris believes the case will remain as relevant tomorrow as it is today, as social media continues to grow in personal lives and business environments. Her company’s approach to social media is unique as the firm has adopted a ‘business-to-business’ and ‘business-to-consumer’ focus.

“Our customers are our agent and broker network first, and the end consumer in a secondary way,” Chris said. “Most real estate brands lump everything together and do not have clear messaging or collaboration with their customers. Our message to the consumer is different than it is to the agent and broker.”

Her firm manages more than 15 social accounts including multiple accounts on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ and blogs. The company’s brand itself is the top magazine on Pinterest and has close to one million fans on Facebook through multiple pages.

“I am one of the few CEOs who is personally very active socially. Social networking and media is simply a new way to communicate with and sell your product or service to the end consumer,” Chris said. “The one thing most companies don't realize is that there is nothing simple about it. We launched (the firm) at a time when social media was just starting to take off. We built it right in to our value prop and it has given us an edginess that other more traditional brands are unable to copy.”

Chris began selling real estate in the early 1980s in Kitchener, Ont., at a time when interest rates approached 20 per cent. For the past six years she has been with Realogy, the largest real estate company in the world, with holdings including Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21, Coldwell Bankers and others.

In the late 1990s, and prior to her current position, Chris’ then CEO and mentor suggested if she wanted to continue to advance her career, she should consider enrolling in an EMBA program. Chris said she immediately chose Ivey “and the rest is history.”

“It was a remarkable experience for me personally and professionally,” she said. “It was an exceptional learning experience, but also a validation of what I was doing right in my business environment. And, of course, the relationships you create with your fellow classmates are invaluable and last a lifetime. Our class continues to have reunions, and a group of us have remained in touch. We all learned great things from one another during those two years and beyond.”

Well known within the real estate industry, Chris is a frequent speaker at real estate and technology conferences. In 2010, she was honoured with a Best Executive Award in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, which recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding women executives, entrepreneurs and the organizations. That same year, she was named 2010 Inman Innovator of the Year, a prestigious award within the real estate and technology sectors for those who have demonstrated exceptional vision and foresight in using innovation to enhance the real estate experience for consumers, real estate brokers and agents.























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