There was a time when Susan Gucci, Toronto Storeys' 2019 Realtor of the year, was ready to retire.

“I was in the pharmaceutical industry, got downsized from a company and I was exhausted, dried up, used up and ready to retire," says Gucci. "But then I rested for a little bit and thought, God, I still have so much more energy and so much more to give that there's got to be something else."

That something else was real estate.

Gucci is now in the top one-percent of sales for all realtors in Toronto, growing the business done by The Susan Gucci Team for Royal LePage Signature Realty by 61 percent alone in 2019, and much of that growth was due to selling listings that other brokers could not.

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She's also the number one realtor in her East York neighbourhood and among the top one percent of realtors in Canada.

“It's because of the service she provides,” says Chris Slightham who is the co-broker and co-owner of Royal LePage Signature Realty with his brother Jeff.

“She does an amazing job helping them get their properties prepared, providing really clear and accurate advice on market conditions, in terms of how to market the property and what the correct strategy is to get them what they want. She approaches it as a business and she puts a real focus on getting results for her clients, and that's what makes a big difference.”

Gucci is a born salesperson, having received top notch sales training from some of the largest blue chip organizations out there, including GlaxoSmithKline, General Foods and Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

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The first inkling of her sales gift came as a 16-year-old from her first job at jean store called Slack Shack. The moment they offered a “Spiff” --  more money for every pair she sold from an outdated line – she was off to the races.

“I sold so many that we broke records for our store and they started shipping all of these jeans from all over the country to our store," says Gucci. "I thought I was done and I could move on and then suddenly I'm Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory and these jeans just keep coming."

Of course, real estate is about more than just the product for her. She gets the same instant gratification now that she got selling those jeans, but this time, she gets to genuinely make a difference and help people as well.

“At my core, I really want to make a difference. Real estate and my involvement in the community is an opportunity to do that.  I feel for people engaged in real estate transactions. When you're selling or buying your house it's your most valuable asset. It's one of the scariest things you're going to do and it's just overwhelming for people.

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"I just feel like they deserve to have someone in their corner that's really caring, that really wants the best for them, that's competent and that's really going to do a great job and that's what motivates me,” says Gucci.

She feels in her heart just how important a person's home is. She understands acutely that this home she is selling for her clients or helping them buy is where their family resides or resided, it's where they felt or feel the safest and is where they are or were the happiest.

It's sensitivity to all of those feelings that makes her work as hard as she does.

“I want to be like Susan when I grow up,” says Kate Young, real estate broker for Keller Williams Portfolio Realty who first met Gucci about nine years ago when they met at an organized real estate function and subsequently put a deal together.

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“I look up to her, she's an incredible role model and she has incredible work ethic. She works so hard, gets amazing results for her clients and whenever you're on the other side of a transaction with her you know it's going to be professional, easy to deal with and always pleasant,” she added.

That amazing work ethic has paid dividends for Gucci, especially over the past year with their Gross Commission Income growing by 61 percent.

While many, including Young and Slightham, attribute her success to her ability to go above and beyond for her clients, showcase and market her listings well and her ability to get clients top dollar for their properties, she says her success comes down to being able to dial up her efficiency.

“First off, we have a really great skillset and some of the best training out there," she says. "I have a passion for pushing boundaries, not just to make money, but to do better and give a better client experience. I want them to feel that they really do feel supported through the real estate process and looked after as much as possible.

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"It also comes down to continually growing, reading a lot, going to conferences and finding ways to make yourself better. I love that. If I wasn't growing, I don't think I could do this,” she says.

Those genuine care-taking aspects of her personality extend not just to her clients, but also to the East York community she lives and works in.

Sure, East York is the main neighbourhood she dominates with her listings, but community organizer and activist Justin Van Dette, who himself has been recognized for his passion for giving back, is also her neighbour and says that her community involvement doesn't end with sponsorship and monetary giving. She actually has her boots on the ground – unafraid to roll up her sleeves and give her time as well.

“There are real estate agents all over the place, you can almost find one on every street corner. The thing that makes Susan stand-out as an individual – to me anyway – is the amount of philanthropy and community giving she does. I don't know how she finds the time to give so much back and do so much for the community,” he says.

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According to Van Dette, Gucci was an integral to the success of the breakfast program at his alma mater, East York Collegiate Institute, making sure that students received proper nutrition. She also volunteers her time teaching children bike safety and advising them about career choices through the Junior Achievement Program.

When she does give money, she donates to the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, which helps women and children escape violence and rebuild their lives, among the top 10 per cent of donors.

"She's very grassroots, she thinks like an average person and I think that's very impressive."

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Her advice is invaluable as a director-at-large for the Toronto Real Estate Board [TREB] – a position she won thanks to a landslide vote in her favour – and as a former  member of the Government Relations Committee that lobbies Queen's Park on real estate issues.

“I'm new to the TREB Board of Directors this year and having her with a little more experience than me there has been invaluable because I'm always asking her for advice or asking, 'What's the background on this situation or issue we're talking about,'"says Young

Having an up close and personal view of the real estate market and the issues facing it for the entire city – not just the neighbourhoods she represents, also gives her quite the competitive advantage.

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“It's an advantage in the sense that I think it's very important for people to be involved in the organized real estate side of our business, so I think it's great we have a number of people involved in it and we are big supporters of the value organized real estate brings to the community,"says Slightham.

"In that way, it's great to have Susan in particular very involved."

So with so much that Susan Gucci has already accomplished, where does she go from here as Realtor of the Year?

“We set pretty aggressive goals this year – I thought we weren't going to reach them to be honest – even the first goal was a stretch, but the second goal was like, 'Yeah that's not going to happen, but let's just put it out there,' and we did it."

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