Where I Come From

“My name is Mike Jager. Been in real estate for a little over 14 years now. Started actually in textiles. Was born in a family business that my dad started here. He came off the boat, as we say, and was sweeping floors in a factory, and worked his way up from janitor, to manager, to partner, and bought out his partner and owned the business since 1983.

So I was literally born into this family business. We’ll call it the Schmatta business. And that’s all I knew, growing up. Figured that’s what I would do. But one thing my dad always instilled in me, says, “Always make a difference, no matter what you do. You work with someone, you work for yourself, or anybody else, make a difference.” I felt I was limited with regards to making a difference in the textile world. At one point he, when I moved to Toronto, and he got very ill, and then I moved back to Montreal, and he was contemplating selling the business to have a talk.

He said, “You know, I’m thinking about selling the business. Unless you want to take it over.” I saw it as a huge opportunity to go out and do something on my own. And real estate is something I always had a passion for. It’s something I always wanted to do. But I felt limited with regards to being able to take that avenue, because I was dedicated to the family business. So the first thing I said was, “Dad, sell the business. Great opportunity; go for it.” He sold the business, and then I sold everything I had. Sold my house, sold my trucks, cars, and said, “I’m gonna go all in and go into real estate.” I had just been married a little over a year.

My daughter Sienna was born two months prior. Came home, told my wife, I said, “Honey, we’re leaving the family business. My dad is selling the company, and I’m gonna go into real estate. So we’re gonna take a bit of a gamble. We’re gonna move into your parents’ duplex, in the one-and-a-half downstairs. And I’m gonna go work for a real estate company and gain knowledge before I go one day work for a developer and maybe start my own development company.”

She says, “Great. What are they gonna pay you in this real estate company?” And I said, “Well they’re not gonna pay me anything. They’re gonna give me a draw. They’re gonna lend me $30,000 a year towards my future commissions.” So she pretty much got a little bit of a heart attack, thinking you’re leaving a high paying family business, to going into real estate where they don’t pay you. They’re lending you money until you can get on your feet? I said, “Yeah, but don’t worry. Give me a couple of years and we’ll make it happen.”

And that’s how it started. That’s how I got started in real estate. That’s how I got started at CBRE. And was there for about 3 years, and during that time I had the opportunity to do a couple of transactions with the Groupe Montoni. With the Dario Montoni specifically. And one day got a call from Dario saying, “I got this client I want to talk to you about. How about you come in and meet with me?” So I went to his office and I sat down with him, and there was no talk of a client. He asked a lot of personal questions, you know, “Are you married? Do you got kids? What are your initiatives? What do you want to do in life?” And so I wasn’t really sure why I was getting interrogated until he said, you know, “I’m looking for someone to come work with me.

I need someone to be kind of like my right-hand man. Help me out. I’m doing everything on my own at this point.” And so, I was kinda confused. I said, “Do you want me to help you find someone?” He says, “No, I want you to come work with me.” So my first reaction was that I have no knowledge of construction. You know, I’m not a developer. I’d like to be one day, but I have no knowledge of construction.

He said, “Don’t worry. What you have, I can’t teach. You have passion, you have integrity.” He goes, “Construction, I can teach. But what you have, I can’t. And that’s why I want you to come work with me.” And it’s been ten years. It’s been a great ride. And it’s been a lot of fun.”