Beyond the Ceilings

Building a Better Business and a Better Community

When Nick Schlekeway graduated from Boise State in 2007, he took with him way more than just the knowledge gained from a degree in business management. As a three-year starting defensive end and team captain for the Boise State Broncos—part of their first Fiesta Bowl win—he also picked up some serious leadership and motivational skills.

“Being involved on the leadership side of a program like that was an invaluable learning experience in terms of motivating and directing people,” says Schlekeway. “I came to understand it’s not as much about the playbook and the schemes as it is about getting the players to buy in to what you’re doing. If you can get that you’re going to win football games. And it’s the same when it comes to attracting and retaining top talentin business.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was an Academic All-American who graduated magna cum laude with a 3.8 GPA. After spending four years as a City of Boise firefighter, Nick changed course to real estate. A short time later he became the designated broker at Boise Premier, where he met Steve Caporale. It didn’t take long for the two to realize they had very similar ideas about what they thought a brokerage firm should provide its clients, and a few months later they left to form their own company.

“Steve and I immediately recognized the shared vision of a firm that was focused on quality representation and excellence in marketing,” explains Schlekeway, “But beyond that, we also wanted to be involved in local charities and have associates who very much wanted to give back to the communities where they live and sell.”

During his days as a Bronco, Nick was introduced to that world through the team’s involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He was particularly impressed with the bravery he saw in two young cancer survivors, a boy named Amherst and a girl named Madison. When Nick and Steve were brainstorming on a name for their new company late one night that story came up, and they decided instantly that Amherst Madison was the perfect fit.

“It’s one thing to say that you want to give back to your community, but we like to think it’s ingrained in our business model,” says Schlekeway, “Even to the degree that it’s part of our name.”

Call it good recruiting or just plain community spirit, but every one of the agents now at Amherst Madison have bought in to that idea.

“It’s not required, it’s just really strongly emphasized,” Schlekeway says. “We make it very clear to people that it’s part of our company culture and that it’s very important to us. And because of that we tend to attract people who care about it.”

They demonstrate their dedication to this company tenet primarily through an organization called The Black Door. Started in 2014 by founding partner Nikele Wood, this non-profit organization works with multiple charities, including Full Circle Exchange, Make-A-Wish, and local refugee groups, to facilitate events and fundraising activities. Last year, over a dozen Amherst Madison agents volunteered to help out with a Thanksgiving dinner The Black Door put on for 75 refugees.

“The fact that The Black Door supports multiple organizations gives us the ability to do that as well,” Schlekeway says. “And they also provide for anonymous giving, which is becoming more and more important to donors these days.”

Both The Black Door and Amherst Madison have deep roots in Idaho and are looking to sink those roots deeper in the Boise area. Amherst Madison just celebrated the opening of their new Boise office, a 3,000-square-foot building at Emerald and Garden streets that’s sporting a new, half-million dollar facelift.

“Because of our name and our image, a lot of people assume we’re not from here, but we’re a locally owned, locally managed company,” Schlekeway says with pride. “I grew up here, went to Eagle High School, played for Boise State, was a Boise City firefighter. I’m about as ingrained in the community as you can get.”

In less than two years, Amherst Madison has grown to 40 agents in two offices representing some $40 million in real estate. All this didn’t just drop in their laps. They spent a full year in development, making sure their transaction and marketing models were set up just right before they began recruiting.

“We learned our lessons working with other brokers who didn’t do that, and we didn’t want to be in a position where we couldn’t grow and expand if and when we wanted,” Schlekeway says. “We had  opportunities to expand outside Idaho very early on, but we really wanted to focus on Boise and the needs of our local community. It was vital to us that we build a model that could be scaled, but in a
sensible and targeted manner.”

One of the unique things about Amherst Madison’s business model is their two-tiered structure. Agents start out as associates. Then, based on time and experience, they have the chance to move up to partner and, if they continue their development, to senior partner.  These designations carry with them a great amount of pride and subsequent reward, as well as real opportunities for career advancement.

“Brokerages who don’t offer those kinds of opportunities often have a difficult time retaining talent,” Schlekeway says. “People hit these ceilings and they can get stagnant. If you have
talented people, you have to give them someplace to go, a way to get beyond those ceilings, or they’re going to go away. We can sit down with them and chart out a complete career path with us.”
As our city continues to grow at a seemingly exponential rate, it’s good to know that some of the businesses who have a hand in that growth are dedicated to creating meaningful change and
making a difference in the lives of those who live here. Amherst Madison does that in their own, distinctive way.