From memory it was early Spring 2004; we were called to a special meeting of the Southern NSW ERA agents group.
Bob had called me personally, given that I was chairman of this group, he specifically asked that both Affy and I make the trek across to Canberra for this meeting.
We were to meet you for the first time. At first; when I was introduced to you, the name Brian White did not register any specific interest and I was more interested in catching up with Bob again before the meeting.
Bob was the tall, charismatic American who had been sent to Australia to set up ERA.
Sas and I had become friends with him and Carol. Last November, we had celebrated Bob’s birthday at a dinner in Wagga, when he and Carol had driven through on the way to Melbourne, we had stayed at their apartment in Mosman over Easter, when they were away and, we had spent many hours with the two of them at various functions over the past 12 months.
Bob had given Affy and I, the belief in ourselves to build our business and had introduced us to many tools, helping us to plan and plot our business success.
Before the meeting started, your presence was just a curiosity, Bob and I swapped banter and he did a great job of not revealing who you were or why you were there.
It was not long before I realised the full import of this meeting; Brian White, Chairman of Ray White Real Estate in Queensland, was here to tell us he had bought the ERA franchise in Australia.
I don’t think you quite understood the power of a group when they are besieged. Most of us had joined ERA with the promise of being part of a rapidly growing network. We had been disappointed with the lack of growth but Bob’s personality and charm had melded us into a very loyal team. We were proud of our network and we had all become friends and business confidants.
At first glance, your presentation on the benefits of your ownership was underwhelming and to be honest most of us greeted this news with a great deal of scepticism.
We were all aware of the Ray White market presence in Queensland, but we were also aware of the previous, failed attempts to establish a network in NSW.
The meeting folded and we went to digest this news over a late lunch, there was despair at the coming loss of Bob and there was concern at your seeming lack of any pride at what he had achieved.
We did not get to meet the man you had told us was going to take charge of our network and this also caused some concern.
I was not to know how this meeting was going to change my future; Affy and I drove the three hours back to Wagga in tense discussion.
I was to grow a very deep respect for you over the next ten years but given the tone of this meeting, that respect would take time to develop.