Home Month and Year April 2024 The RMS Group – Celebrating 30 Years

The RMS Group – Celebrating 30 Years

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The RMS Group is a fully integrated real estate development, construction and property management company. Founded in 1994 by President and CEO, Curtis Way, RMS has played an integral role in the development and construction of over 3.5 million square feet of commercial, industrial and multi-family apartments in western Canada. Its property management brokerage, Royal Management Services Inc., manages approximately $500 million in commercial and multi-family assets in western Canada, both for the RMS Group and third-party clients.

Curtis Way launched Royal Management Services as a real estate development company in 1994. In the early 2000s, due to the booming oil and gas economy, Curtis began developing industrial land in northern Alberta and British Columbia. This eventually became the catalyst that effectuated the construction division of RMS, as it became clear to Curtis that it was more cost effective to establish his own construction company, due to the lack of contractors.

As Curtis’ passion in real estate development grew in the late 1990s, RMS Group’s industrial and commercial projects expanded across western Canada. The opportunity came for Curtis to develop a large section of land out of a receivership, where he built the first of many multi-family apartment projects. As RMS developed more multi-family and industrial projects, the construction division grew and completed millions of dollars of third-party work. As underground site service work became more relevant, the construction division acquired hundreds of pieces of equipment and the RMS equipment leasing division was created.

This year RMS celebrates its 30th anniversary and Curtis reflects on the winding road that brought him and his team to this point.

“RMS has far exceeded my expectations,” he begins. “I remember being a young teenager and meeting one of my father’s acquaintances who was a house builder. At 14, I thought, ‘That is what I want to do. I want to build houses.’ I had no idea that I would be building multi-million dollar apartments or have this value of property in our portfolio. We have far exceeded my wildest dreams and that is the direct result of my daughter, Laura, and the other partners and team members we have. To say we are a family-run business is accurate but that includes a lot of employees who have become like family and put their heart and soul into RMS alongside us.”

In addition to the milestone of its 30th anniversary this year, RMS is excited to announce the promotion of Laura Way-Olenek, from Executive Vice President to her new role as President of the RMS Group.

“Laura, from a young age – very shortly after college – ran hotels across western Canada as a General Manager,” says Curtis. “I asked her to come to RMS because we are a family business and I needed help. That was 18 years ago and she climbed the ranks on her own merit.”

“I joined my father partway through his career,” Laura explains. “I took a look at RMS’ portfolio and thought, ‘I have to manage this.’ The company had grown and I knew we had to invest more time and energy in actively managing our assets. My past hotel management experience came in useful and was very critical in ensuring that RMS’ asset portfolio remained consistent in its growth.”

As Laura advanced in her various roles within the organization, RMS continued to grow quickly in all divisions of the Group. Today, RMS’ residential portfolio alone equates to 1,500 apartments.

“Our growth was unique to watch,” continues Laura. “Seeing how we take a piece of land, finance it, service it, develop it, build on it and then roll it over to the property management division all under one group shows vertical integration at its best. This is what makes RMS so remarkable.”

Seeing Laura succeed in the world of construction, which is typically a male dominated industry, is a source of Curtis’ pride.

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, Laura admits she does get asked, “How did you overcome this challenge?”

“At first it was very much leaning on my father’s guidance and direction in how to shape situations in order to get the outcome that benefits the company best. If someone was not acknowledging my changes to management and implementing as directed, I would ask my father, ‘How do I make them recognize that this change is beneficial?’ Ultimately it comes down to building effective communication and maintaining good working relationships.”

Adamant and passionate about women’s leadership in the industry, Laura joined Edmonton CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) in 2015 and in 2022, she became the Edmonton CREW President.

CREW was established with the aim of connecting women in commercial real estate with networking and business opportunities. In collaboration with CREW Network and CREW Network Foundation, they strive to bring more women into commercial real estate by educating women about career opportunities in the industry, supporting college-level education through scholarships, and offering mentorships to those new to the industry.

In RMS’s 30th year in business, Laura is poised to take on her biggest and most rewarding career challenge yet – presidency of the RMS Group of Companies.

As this role is passed to Laura, there is a realization that the company will undergo a transformation and continue its growth trajectory under a new generation of leadership.

“It was overwhelming, humbling and exciting all at once,” says Laura. “As I watched our team evolve and adapt management strategies, I realized that while our vision, mission and values remain constant, the building blocks of how we engage relationships will change. We must continuously pivot in response to societal, political and economic shifts, like weaving a masterpiece, ensuring the threads never break.

“Being part of a family-owned business, our structure is incredibly flat. Over time, I have stepped into almost every role or had a hand in shaping its protocols and policies. I’ve seen us grow from good to great in construction and the real estate industry and the scale of our operations, now compared to then, is staggering. Yet in this growth and change, we remain rooted in our values and commitment to our people.”

Dan Demers, celebrated his 10 year anniversary with the company and recently accepted the position of Executive Vice President of the RMS Group. Demers describes some of the ways the organization gives back.

“The Salvation Army is our charity of choice. Over the years we have significantly contributed to their cause. We believe in what the Salvation Army does and hope, in some small way, that we are helping to make people’s lives better.”

He adds, “We are also proud to be the first in Canada to develop a public-private affordable apartment housing project. This sets the stage for a new era of public-private partnerships in affordable housing.”

The project is called Pine Creek Manor and is a joint venture with Civida (formerly known as Capital Regional Housing), a provider of affordable housing in the Edmonton area.

RMS and Civida co-own and built the apartment building that serves as a model for future developments. This unique project comprises 174 apartment units, 35 of which are subsidized by the government. What sets this venture apart is that all apartments, subsidized or otherwise, are identical, ensuring equity and dignity for all residents.

The partnership with Civida extends beyond construction. Pine Creek has created a support system for residents who are striving for better lives.
Dan speaks to a good example of how, through Pine Creek Manor, this is actualized.

“Consider a single mother who wishes to return to school. Under our program, she would have access to school funding and subsidized rent, but what happens once she completes her schooling and her income improves? Unlike other programs where she might be forced to relocate, the Pine Creek Manor program allows her to stay in her unit. Her rent will gradually increase until it matches the market rental rate. This means she doesn’t need to be uprooted from her community and disrupt her routine. This stability is invaluable and can significantly contribute to her future successes.”

While similar programs exist in other parts of the world, Pine Creek was the first of its kind in Canada.

With a transition of leadership in place, 30 years of experience behind RMS and infinite possibilities ahead, what does Curtis see on the horizon?
“Over the next 5-10 years, the vision is growth in all aspects of the Group including the development of another $500 million in real estate projects and growing the property management portfolio to $1.5 billion in assets.”

Even though he has no plans to retire fully as Laura takes the reins, Curtis insists, to the good-natured chagrin of his daughter, that he’ll be dropping in to provide mentorship and see how things are going, in between his travels.

“Just because the old guy is going out the door, doesn’t mean the company is stopping,” he laughs.

He reflects on how the company started with an idea and is now a second-generation successful Group with notable brands under its umbrella.
“Being recognized by Business in Edmonton’s Leaders Awards has always been a great memory for me. Additionally, a very rewarding recognition was in 2015 and 2016 when RMS Builders Inc., our construction company, was recognized as the fastest growing construction company in Canada two years in a row by Profit 500 Magazine. It’s awards like this that really make you realize what great opportunities we have here in Canada.”

Curtis concludes, “The RMS team has been instrumental to our success. Our employees have always been our best strength and the dedication they have shown over the years is second to none. Currently, our senior management in all departments have stellar reputations and we are proud they are part of the RMS Group.”

As the next chapter unfolds, the RMS story continues to evolve.

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