Upheaval

Dear Affy

You came home  later in 1986 after wandering the world for almost 18 Months. Now it was time to get you back to work. I was nominally General Manager N.S.W. for ERA and I was keen to get you back on my team.

My rhetoric may have been a bit over the top as  I tried to sell you on the idea of joining me.

The truth was, that  growth had not been great and everyone was frustrated..

Your job was to hit the road, selling our story to potential Agents, it came as no surprise to me to see the effort you put in and I think we made a bloody, good tag team.

It was terrific to be back working with you, I had someone who I knew always had my back and I hope you knew this too.

As the push to make the change to our identity started to achieve some traction within the White family  you and I would talk seriously about the best way to achieve this.

Michael and I were on opposite sides on this; we both believed it was inevitable but Mike assumed it would just happen and everyone would fall into line.

You and I both knew of the entrenched cynicism within the old group and we knew it would be a hard, patient job to bring the ERA offices on board with a new identity.

There were issues of cost and identity to be acknowledged but there were also deeper issues of tribal loyalty which did not make any commercial sense but were very real regardless.

One of the offices I had brought on board, was a small property management business in Rose Bay, it had taken me over a year to convince Trevor we were worth a try. I spent many hours doing his Auctions for nothing and encouraging him to think about growing his business.

In terms of income, Trevor was minor to us at the time, but for some reason I persisted, even when Michael would challenge me on the time I was spending with this office.

Trevor was a young guy with talent, at that stage in our development, young talented people were thin on the ground.  I really appreciated your support on this one and I watched with pride as you formed an alliance with Trevor.

Apart from anything else, it would be Trevor who first introduced me to the mobile phone, that is something, I may never forgive him for!

It would not be the last time we would conflict with Corporate over the future of Trevor in the group.

Towards the middle of 1987, we announced to the group we would be changing identity and “the shit hit the fan”

The news was accepted worse in Queensland but this was expected because of Ray White’s presence there. What was not expected, was the virulence of the opposition in N.S.W. and Victoria.

I don’t think you and I have ever worked harder or more desperately than we did at that time, the relationship between Michael and myself worsened as he failed to accept the level of feeling within the group.

You and I were fighting a war on two fronts; our current franchisees were accusing us of “selling out” and Michael seemed impervious to the danger of the group splitting.

By July,  I was despondent and for a couple of weeks, I took myself off on “gardening leave” with a view to severing ties with the group.

I would speak daily with you, but otherwise, I had virtually shut down contact with Michael. Brian and I hardly spoke during this time; I honestly don’t know whether he was fully aware of what was happening.

There were people in Queensland who were aware of the issues and who were very supportive of what we  were trying to do.

Things finally came to a head over the issue of my attendance at the Annual Awards night in Brisbane.

There were a group of ERA people attending but I could not in all conscience ask them to support a merger I was starting not to believe in myself. I decided not to go and told Michael of my decision.

He at first seemed to accept this and agreed to give me time to sort things out in my own head. This changed; when on the day he was flying to Brisbane, he left a message  giving me an ultimatum.

Basically, the message was; “be there or be sacked” the sacking didn’t worry me too much. I had half accepted I was leaving anyway, but the tone was inflammatory.

I interrupted my golf game to speak to you and Myf in Queensland, I told you, that in view of this message, my decision not to go, was now nonnegotiable. Michael would have my resignation when he returned.

I had never started this fight with Michael with a view to it being a battle between he and I. My thoughts were that I would probably leave, but I would have welcomed the opportunity to have discussed what was going on, hopeful we could find a way to bridge the chasm

Michael’s ultimatum changed all this, I went home to relax, planning to collect the kids from school later in the day and to see Micahel later in the week to tender my resignation..

In the space of an hour I was being told by Myf that she had booked flights for me and urging me to come, so at least I would have a chance to speak with Brian.

I think there was a bit of emotional blackmail that it would be unfair to leave without any explanation. I don’t know to this day, whether Brian was aware of any of these negotiations.

I quietly flew into Brisbane and made an appearance at the night, Michael and I exchanged words and Brian and I spoke briefly. As we were leaving  the dinner, I think both you and I expected my time at Ray White to be at an end.

Brian had asked if we could meet in the morning and you insisted on coming to support me, the words were, as I remember “If you go, I go too”

I did not want this to happen, it was my battle and you were only part of it because of our friendship.

What happened that morning, surprised both of us; Michael was a Ray White man and I was an outsider.

I had rocked the boat by making it very clear, Michael and I could not continue to work together unless things changed dramatically.

I expected to be thanked for my work and wished well for the future. Paul and Alan were no fans of mine and Brian had appointed Michael.

All three were at the office for the meeting, I left you in reception and walked into the boardroom to be greeted with the news:

“We have decided to replace our Chief Executive in Sydney”

This surprised me, but I told them I thought it  was a good move. I asked who they were appointing?

There were many people in Queensland who I had got to know quite well and I was hoping it would be one of them.

“We thought you may be interested”

Affy, there are not many people who would believe how genuinely shocked I was at this suggestion.

Perhaps, it was only you and I, who could not believe this was to be the outcome.

We were  two youngish guys, we were very much the naive products of a small country city and, now; we were being handed the opportunity to build a big new business.

The task was daunting, but I had you by my side.

Thanks again old mate

Bruce

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