In honour of Vancouver’s Pride Week, we spoke with Oakwyn agent Erik Carlson.
Besides providing residential real estate services in Vancouver, Erik is involved with LGBTQ2+ groups like Qmunity, Out in Schools, Out On Screen, and Loud. He’s also a loving husband and father to two adorable children.
We sat down with Erik after a photoshoot for Oakwyn’s Pride Celebration to discuss putting people first, taking a stance, and the beauty of safe spaces.
Colleen Christison: “What attracted you to the Oakwyn agency?”
Erik Carlson: “I was in an office before when there was a bit of an exodus, several people left and went to Oakwyn. And after they left they said ‘you really have to come over here and experience this.’ It took me about 6 months to make the transition because I was fine where I was. I didn’t necessarily know what differently I was looking for and I had interviewed so many agencies before that I just expected it to just be another option.
So, I finally went and talked to [Oakwyn] and they told me their philosophies… I was wondering, can this be real? Do they really ‘walk-the-walk’? That’s partly why I waited, to see if they did it. After several months, I realized they really do.”
CC: “What were some of those things that set them apart? What makes them ‘walk-the-walk’?
EC: “One of [Oakwyn’s] core philosophies is to ‘put people first’ and that’s always been the core of my business, too. My business is relationships, not transactions. The transaction is a result of the relationships that I have.
With Oakwyn, they encouraged that [philosophy] with how you, as an agent, run your business but it’s also how they run their business as a brokerage with agents. It’s so flipped on the head of how agencies are and that’s why I had doubts at first. Normally, you’re part of a group and you’re supposed to be proud of that group but your name is down to the side. I’m not egotistical in the way that I want my name up-front, what I cared about is that they really looked at me and how I want to run my business. They encouraged and supported that and then said, you’re with Oakwyn. The ‘Oakwyn’ name instead is off to the side.
It’s the philosophy of ‘high tides raise all ships’.“
EC: “And then there was the culture. They have people who are involved and active and happy.
[Oakwyn] is actively engaged, they have high standards with a good educational component. They definitely know what they’re doing but they also give [their agents] the autonomy to say ‘hey, let’s try that’ or ‘here’s our experience with that path. If you also want to try and see if you have better luck, go for it but here’s what we think.’
It’s also the collaborative nature — our industry is so based on connection yet privacy and guarding the ‘silver bullet’ that makes you as an agent so successful. I just don’t think that there is a silver bullet… It just comes down to connecting with people and being a good person and a good agent and [Oakwyn] supports that.”
CC: “In light of Oakwyn’s Pride Celebration, what do you think of their involvement in the LGBTQ2+ community?”
EC: “Formally, this is the first event that Oakwyn has put on with marketing and promotion dedicated to the LGBTQ2+ community. It’s funny — I feel like there is something really beautiful when it’s a non-issue, which is the goal that gay rights have been chasing for so long.
Getting involved with Oakwyn… It’s never been a question or an issue or even a blip in a conversation. I have felt, with the leadership in the company, that there has never been anything but a sense of acceptance, that it’s a family. We’re all the same within [Oakwyn], it doesn’t matter what your demographic is, whatever letter you are, whether it’s part of the LGBTQ2+ or anything else.
I was happy they’re doing [the Pride Celebration], I think it’s important to actually make a statement, that this is your stance as a company.”
CC: “Do you have anything to add before we wrap up?”
EC: “I love gaybourhoods and gay bars, I think it’s so important to have dedicated, safe, celebratory spaces where you can forget everything else and any potential worry… It’s a place where you can have pride and acceptance. It would be wonderful if we didn’t need those places truly but it’s proven over and over again that as far as we’ve come, it’s still a facade.
When I wrote my website, we really tried to get the point across that I’m gay and that’s the community I want to help and service. To some people, it’s still important to have that person where you know that you don’t have to swallow a little bit hard or pause when you say ‘We just need a one-bedroom’ as two men or two women.”
So often corporations stay neutral in their stances. But, as Erik pointed out, it’s still important to have those safe spaces, spaces like gaybourhoods and gay bars, that have publicly stated they are LGBTQ2+ friendly.
With the Pride Celebration, people know they can go to Oakwyn and experience nothing but acceptance, no matter ‘what letter you are’.