65% interest

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During a press briefing Thursday at Williams' headquarters here,FirstService and Williams executives emphasized their commoninterest in a decentralized platform for operating efficiency. "Thebrokers are, to a certain extent, our clients too," said MichaelCohen, president of Williams, and therefore they need a quickturnaround on decisions in order to be able to service clients.

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Douglas Frye, president and CEO of FirstService Commercial RealEstate and chairman of Colliers International, said the acquisitionof Williams provides a gateway into the New York market that thecompany has not had before. At the same time, Williams managementsaid their company will benefit from the greater capabilities ofFirstService's international platform, which generates $1.9 billionannually in revenues.

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"This is a game-changer for us," said Robert Freedman, executivechairman of Williams. Its range of services will be expanded toinclude mortgage brokerage, asset management, project managementand hotel and hospitality consulting, according to the release.

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Mark Jaccom, CEO at Williams, and Frye said their firms wereunited as well by a client-first mentality. "In any servicebusiness, the only way you create a brand is if it's consistent,"Frye said. Therefore, he added, it's essential that anyFirstService division shares the intent of providing the bestservice for its clients. Jaccom noted that GVA Williams was builton a platform of focusing on clients rather than transactions.

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Frye asserted that his company has "the most aggressive trainingprogram in the industry." About one-third of that training isbehavioral, focused on team-building rather than nuts-and-boltsprocedural points, he added. He acknowledged that because most ofits marketing is done under the Colliers name, FirstService is notwidely known--but, he said, it's the fourth-largest commercial realestate services company in the world after CB Richard Ellis, JonesLang LaSalle and Cushman & Wakefield.

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Jaccom predicted a period of growth during the currentlyturbulent market. "We're in expansion mode," he said. "There willbe no layoffs," in contrast to other firms that are cutting back.Jaccom added, however, that new hires at Williams would not beevaluated simply on their deal velocity, but also on their abilityto fit into the client-first model. He asserted that FirstServicewould be the world's number-one commercial real estate company"within five years."

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The integration of Williams into FirstService and the expansionof the local company's capabilities will be done methodically,Jaccom said. "We're not going to do it haphazardly and we're notgoing to cherry-pick," he said. "We're going to execute it like amilitary maneuver."

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.