– Story by Kathy Michaels Photography by Darren Hull
Saying the Stone Sisters are impressive negotiators may sound like little more than an endorsement for their real estate partnership. But in actuality, it’s much more.
Negotiating is part of the tie that binds them together and is woven so deeply into their story it’s almost as intrinsic to who they are as their DNA.
“We had to negotiate for everything growing up,” said Tamara one afternoon while sitting in a Kelowna Starbucks, prompting Shannon to nod in agreement.
“Our report card would come in and our dad would say, ‘that’s great — you got a B in math, now go and get an A.’ We would be like ‘huh, what?’ And he would say, ‘go back to school and talk to your teacher.’”
They would trundle back into their classroom the next day and start making the case for a better mark, pointing out that perhaps the grading of a paper or exam failed to take note of some nuance of the answer they’d offered. Inevitably, they’d sway their teachers and their marks would inch up.
It taught them how to confront an issue, be resourceful and believe in themselves — three key ingredients to success and — more importantly for young women who wanted to one day make an impact on the world— independence.
“It was important to both our mom and dad that we be able to stand on our own two feet,” said Shannon.
Unsurprisingly, it makes an impression on those who have seen it in action.
“We went to list an old teacher’s house two years ago, and I said ‘we’re really good negotiators,’” Shannon said.
“They were like, ‘oh, we know.’ Back when we were students, she told us, all the teachers would talk about which Stone sister was coming in to negotiate first.”
It’s part of what made real estate such a natural fit for the sisters, although they came to that realization at different times.
Their parents were realtors in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Tamara decided to follow in their footsteps in 1995, in the thick of an economic lull that hit the Okanagan hard.
“Everyone actually said to me, ‘are you insane, you’re getting into real estate? Why would you do that?’” Tamara said, adding that she was glad she started in such a hard market.
“July 1, 1995, was my first day and I had a dark suit and I’d cut my hair off and sold it to buy business cards … I looked like I was 11 years old.”
Shannon stopped her sister there and offered some perspective as only a loved one can.
“She didn’t look 11. She was 22 and while all of her friends were going to the bar, she’d decided to go into real estate,” Shannon said. “She had short hair, and the worst blue suit — she looked older than she looks now.”
With that, the two laughed and the story shifted to include the added insight.
The Stones have an easy way of communicating. They speak at an energetic clip, encouraging each other as they tell stories and laughing at jokes and shared memories. They even finish each other’s sentences. They share history, but it’s also clear they have a strong bond that carries them forward.
That closeness is part of the reason why their family was concerned when, 10 years after Tamara donned her blue suit, Shannon decided she too wanted to be in real estate.
“Shannon came in after years of me begging her and she said, ‘okay, but I am not going to work for you, I will work with you for six months,’” said Tamara, adding that they were content to go their separate ways at that point.
“Everyone was worried. We have a tight-knit family, and they worried that if we didn’t get along it would wreck everything.”
Of course, it didn’t. They’ve been a homegrown success story, awarded Kelowna’s Best Realtors multiple times and continually ranking among the Top 100 Teams with RE/MAX Canada. They’ve found success, balance and a way to have fun with the work they share.
“If I do anything that annoys Shannon, she just has to raise her eyebrow a little bit and I stop,” said Tamara.
And vice versa.
“We know and we appreciate each other and each other’s opinions,” added Shannon.
“We’re almost one person, but we have different strengths and weaknesses that complement each other.”
They found a groove that allows them to take on all challenges, including market fluctuations. They choose to look at the positives in the market, and work with what they have.
“There are always people moving, sales to be had and chances to be creative,” said Tamara.
“A market like this is nice because you can be honest. Lots of realtors don’t want to tell someone what they need to hear because it’s not what they want to hear. We’re in an industry where people want to be positive, but we want to be realistic.”
Shannon said that means when someone says they want to downsize or expand their real estate portfolio, it’s on them as realtors to look at what’s happening in the market recommend full steam ahead, or say, “this isn’t the market.” And when there’s a real lull, it’s on them to look elsewhere to find new clients to bring to the market. This approach has landed them in Seattle, Toronto and even the oil patch, depending on the year.
“We think of ourselves as more of a marketing business,” said Shannon. “We don’t wait for something to happen or someone to come around and buy our listings — we look at what’s happening and go out and invite people here.”
That approach has its risks and its rewards. But together, the Stones are clearly able to make it work.
See them online here.