Synthia Kloot is the Senior Vice President of Operations for Colliers Canada, focusing specifically on Brokerage Services.
In this role, she leads all supporting functions targeted to the firm’s sales professionals, comprising the client delivery team, deal administration, business services and financial management. In her previous role as IT Director for Colliers Canada, Synthia, along with her team, significantly enhanced the organization’s technology platform, deploying its original CRM system, building its intranet, improving its deal tracking system, bringing its owned offices onto a common technology platform, and creating greater technology alignment within Colliers globally. Throughout her career, Synthia has spent almost equal time in finance, operations and IT.
If you could have dinner with any public figure, who would it be and why?
When he was alive, Nelson Mandela – He accomplished so much without violence and brought people with such opposing ideas through a peaceful transition. I lived through it in South Africa and know how much worse it could have been for everyone. When you visit places like Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years…seeing the conditions in which the political prisoners lived gave me tremendous insight into perseverance and what we can all overcome in a productive way if we are determined despite the adversity.
Richard Branson – I find him a fascinating and enterprising individual who keeps aspiring to new heights as a businessman, humanitarian and celebrity – and there are all those world record attempts (and records).
What was your first job?
At the age of 10, I started helping my parents with the bookkeeping in the family business. I still recall my mother showing me how to enter invoices into the sales journal. I was told to use my “Sunday best handwriting” and I learned to read everyone else’s weekday handwriting. It is amazing how something so simple taught me valuable lessons in understanding that the way you do your job impacts other people around you. Asking your grandfather what he had written down can be pretty scary…
Who are your role models?
There have been a few throughout my career. I believe that I learn from everybody, even people one may not necessarily look up to in the sense of a role model. Through observation and interaction, there are always things you can pick up, whether it be technical skills or just how to treat people. Then there’s the flip side: Seeing things that you know you never want to model, which creates a sense of ongoing awareness on how you show up.
What advice would you give to someone entering the business?
Listen, learn, practice – Everyone can teach you something.
From your experience, what are some proven ways to drive one’s professional development and career progression?
For me, it has always been about being curious, client-focused (internal and external) and solution-driven. This has allowed me to learn about areas not directly within my role, and has presented opportunities to expand my role or to drive collaboration between others where there might have been a gap.
Take charge – To me this means many things. Know your career options, and seek out knowledge and opportunities. At times, be patient – This means mastering something before you move on to the next thing. You may already think you know a process, task or business area really well, but have you thought about ways to be innovative in the situation to improve what is being done? I always say there are passengers and drivers – Be a driver in your career. At times, things may not go exactly as planned or as fast as planned, but opportunities always present themselves. Sometimes, even if it does not feel like an opportunity, it is a lot about attitude and how you choose to respond to it.
What’s the biggest accomplishment of your career so far?
What a tough question! There have been accomplishments that I am proud of, many of which have relevance to my personal journey. But others have had more impact on the business I worked in at the time. A personal accomplishment that gave me confidence I had made the right choice was when I first moved from accounting to IT. Within the first few weeks, I was able to give my colleagues some insight on configuring the general ledger structure for our multi-currency, multi-country system, which the team had been struggling with for some time.
Overseeing Colliers’ Canadian brokerage operations is another accomplishment I am proud of. We have a great team who supported my transition from IT to brokerage. When I worked on the corporate end, it felt like I was looking in from outside. It has been three years now, and in that time, we have created more collaboration within brokerage across the country, and broken down some of the perceived walls that existed between cities – that is probably what I am the most proud of!
What are your favourite business books?
This is easy – Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morris, because I can never seem to hold on to a copy for long. It keeps getting borrowed and never makes its way back – So it must be good! The other business books in my office aren’t as popular; they get picked up and then put back.
What do you see as new industry trends that commercial real estate clients or professionals should be aware of?
Our Industry has been slow to move into the digital age, but the momentum is picking up. We need to embrace it. We are already playing catch-up.
What’s your definition of success?
Success has changed as I have moved through my career. When I first started working, I was studying part-time. I did both my degrees that way, so for a long time, it was about balancing work priorities, lectures, exams and passing.
During the time of affirmative action in South Africa, at times, it was simply celebrating having a job because the demographic legislation for employers was so rigourous and did not favour my demographic.
When I moved to Canada, it was about being able to find a job and not live off savings.
Now it is about empowering the people around me, at work and in life. I have always loved to share knowledge and educate. It can range from simply teaching a yoga class and helping someone up into a headstand, to tacking up a horse for a child who is struggling, to seeing the people I work with grow in their careers and reach their goals.
Moving the business forward is another way I measure my success. Realizing our ideas for continually improving the way we operate, and constantly learning new things, give me a huge sense of accomplishment.
Any words to live by?
What can we do better in everything we do and touch – in business and as people?