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The Real Estate Industry Belongs to REALTORS®, Part II


By Bob Goldberg
CEO National Association of REALTORS®

On August 15, 2017, while officially accepting the position of chief executive officer for the National Association of REALTORS®, Bob Goldberg laid out in detail a plan for ensuring that REALTORS® continue their crucial ownership of the real estate industry. The first segment of his remarks was published on pages 56–59 in the November/December 2017 issue of OC REALTOR®. The remainder of those remarks appears below.

Advocacy

I am also interested in increasing consumer engagement within the Association’s advocacy strategy. Advocacy at all levels of the government is fundamental to our Association’s vitality.

We have met tremendous success in this arena through our REALTOR® Party and grassroots initiatives. However, it is paramount that our resources in policy, lobbying, regulatory, and the REALTOR® Political Action Committee (RPAC) remain at the strongest competitive position possible. We will build on our accomplishments and continue to expand the REALTOR®/NAR relationship with consumers.

As part of our strategy, we will begin investigating the viability of creating a Homeowners’ Coalition membership organization charged with energizing property owners to become activists in issues crucial to the REALTOR® organization. On Capitol Hill, strength is numbers: the more consumers we bring into the coalition, the stronger our voice is elevated.

Increasing Communication

Another competency we will concentrate on is communication, specifically, doing a better job of communicating with our members the value proposition of our local, state, and national associations. Traditional approaches are limiting. We are missing out on opportunities to highlight the wealth of resources and significant value REALTOR® associations offer. So let’s take our message on the road. Let’s engage members in their own communities.

Earlier this year, NAR partnered with leadership from state and local associations throughout Region 5 to pilot a Member’s Edge Event in Florida. It was a one-day, high-energy conference that focused on best practices and cutting-edge technologies. Attendees left with tangible takeaways that strengthened the value proposition of their REALTOR® affiliation. In recent years, NAR has hosted annual Broker Summits, inviting broker-owners from across the country to discuss the challenge of both managing and promoting their business, keeping up with industry changes, and maximizing profitability.

Last summer, in conjunction with the New York State Association of REALTORS®, we hosted the Brokers’ Edge NYC, an event specifically geared toward brokers located in the New York City area. This was the first time we’ve offered a locally focused Brokers’ Edge program.

Given the success of these recent regional and local programs, we’re looking to expand the Members’ Edge and Brokers’ Edge programs, taking them on the road to locations and regions nationwide. These events are high touch with a high impact, providing us the opportunity to connect with our membership in a more personal environment.

We realized the programs’ successes were largely the result of effective collaboration among our local, state, and national associations. Respectful collaboration is critical. Let’s discuss other ideas and ways cooperation can improve our associations at every level. Let’s discuss how we can work together to bring additional value to our membership.

As I mentioned before, my tenure at NAR provides me with a unique perspective. I know our strengths, and I know our weaknesses. I’m aware that there is a perception within the industry that NAR resides in an ivory tower. Some argue that we sit in our office buildings on Michigan Avenue and on Capitol Hill, completely disconnected from the practical concerns of our members and of our industry. While this is a complete misconception, as CEO, it is my priority to alleviate this misapprehension. I am going to own it! I’m ready to take a sledgehammer and knock down the ivory tower façade. The pyramid will be turned upside down with NAR looking up to our members at the top.

So how are we going to do this?

We are going to do it in two ways:
  1. I believe in a leadership philosophy called “leadership in the sunshine.” Shining a light on all that we do hallmarks this leadership style. We’re going to increase our efforts to keep our membership in the know.
  2. Most important, effective immediately, we are going to focus on our listening skills. There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth! We want to hear directly from our members—brokers, agents, and our industry partners.

We want to hear from you—the leadership of the local and state associations. We want to know, what are your frustrations? What are your fears for the future? What are your day-to-day concerns within your businesses? How can NAR better serve you? It’s one thing to say we will be become better listeners, but how will we do it?

Staff Outreach to Members

I am implementing an Executive Outreach Program whereby every NAR vice president and senior vice president will be assigned a region and tasked with strengthening relationships within that region. This includes forging relationships with regional vice presidents, local and state association executives, association and board leadership, and brokers and members in the area.

This is not a side project for staff. All senior executives’ job descriptions are currently being rewritten to include these outreach responsibilities. State and local associations’ feedback will be factored into performance reviews. Our team will be held to a higher standard. Our staff is going to own what’s happening throughout the regions.

Why are we doing this? Because our employees need to own member engagement and member satisfaction. And it’s not just our senior-most staff who are taking on more responsibilities in support of this outreach commitment. Every staff person at NAR will get involved. To be a good listener and to be a good collaborator, our employees must understand what REALTORS® do. There is a world of difference between working for a REALTOR® association and being a real estate professional. I want to make sure our entire staff can appreciate this difference.

Years ago, a member said to me, “Bob, you know what? I wake up every day unemployed.” His comment hit me like a ton of bricks. Until the next contract is signed, a REALTOR®is unemployed.

Our employees need to understand that. They need to understand that nothing good happens between contract and closing. From property appraisals to termite inspections, only bad happens! Our employees need to be more empathetic. They need to understand the trials and tribulations associated with practicing real estate. We have a world-class staff. I’m proud to lead this team. And to strengthen our skillset even further, I am implementing “A Day in the Life Program,” whereby every employee—it doesn’t matter if you are a lobbyist, an economist, an accountant, a mailroom employee, or even the CEO—we are all going to participate in this program, sending NAR staff out and into the trenches beside all of you.

We’ll go on ride-alongs and attend open houses; we’ll visit local boards and state associations; we’ll chat with brokers in their offices. If you are a brand-new employee to NAR or if you’ve been employed for thirty-plus years, it doesn’t matter. Every staff member will participate: it is a requirement of employment. Everyone is going to know that members come first.

Organizational Design Study

In addition, regarding staff development and improving efficiencies, we are commencing an organization design study to review NAR’s internal structure. Our current structure has not been reviewed in fifteen-plus years. Now is the time to take an outward-looking-in approach at what we do. It is our hope that, at the conclusion of this study, new ways to better serve our membership will emerge. Along these lines, and working toward this goal, we are also working to develop a stronger social media strategy.

Social Media Outreach: The Network Effect

We need to be where our members are, and we need to connect with them on their terms. Let’s see what effect the network can have on our organization to improve engagement and to open the lines of communication between staff and members. And this includes me, too! I invite you to join my network on LinkedIn and to follow the NAR CEO page on Facebook.

Communication is a two-way street, and I am committed to remaining connected and accessible to our membership.

And it’s not just social media where you will find me. My background is in building relationships and forming partnerships; I’m a people person. I look forward to spending time at your local boards and state associations. As long as I’m CEO, I will be reaching out and I will be listening. In the short time that I have held this position, I have already communicated personally and directly with more than one thousand members. Keeping up that pace will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I am excited to take on.

There is no one who is more passionate about this industry. There is no one who has more compassion for our members. I promise you will hear from me; but more important, I look forward to hearing from you.

There are so many changes occurring within our industry; it’s time that we begin to see changes within NAR. A new futuristic NAR is emerging; and I promise you that, working beside REALTOR® Leadership and association staff, NAR is well-positioned to lead this industry into the future.

As NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall said, “This is our moment, let’s own it.” And I’m confident we will do just that. Because, to quote the original Boss, Mr. Bruce Springsteen, “Baby we were born to run.”

Thank you for this opportunity. It is my pleasure to serve as the CEO of the National Association of REALTORS®.