Enough With the Talking

Thanks to my friend Jack Miller, I read this post by Drew Burks of Web Real Estate Marketing in which he laments the lack of leadership in the MLS and Realtor Associations:

You see the associations are focused on the wrong things!  The real estate industry is focused on growing membership and collecting membership dues; whereas, in my humble opinion the better thing to focus on is innovation!  With innovation we can move the industry forward in a competitive manner.

And so on.  There are, as of this writing, 143 Facebook “Likes” on this post, and 15 comments with all of the commenters agreeing with Drew.

I have now heard this familiar refrain time and again in just about every other conversation about the industry, with REALTORS, with MLS executives, with MLS board members, with Association leadership, with broker/owners, with managers, with vendors… just about everyone agrees that the industry is broken. I’ve taken part in a lot of those conversations myself.

Here’s the thing: Enough with the talking already.  Time to step up or shut up.

The Leadership Is Not Hereditary

To his credit, Drew volunteers for the Technology Committee of his local MLS.  How many of the commenters and the Likers are doing anything for the industry?  Folks like to talk about the “out-of-touch leadership” and the “oldsters who hate innovation” as if they are hereditary dukes who rule the MLS boards by divine right of kings.  All of those leadership positions are elected.  You don’t like the way your local MLS or your Association is being run?  Run for office!  Or organize a campaign around someone you would support for office.  For chrissakes, DO something, don’t just complain about how someone else needs to do something.

As some of you know, I’m involved with the Tea Party movement and online political organizations, in my copious spare time.  The analogy is perfectly apt.  The Tea Parties began as a bunch of people getting together to complain, bitch, and whine about the direction of the country.  They held some protests, which were ignored by everyone in government and in the media.  Ho, hum, another sign-hoisting protest; wake me up when the crazies have cleared out.

Funny thing happened on the way to irrelevance, however.  The Tea Parties started to organize and started to DO something about the situation.  They went from protest movements to political organizations.  They started to raise money for candidates, organize volunteers for their preferred candidates, started to knock out some big wins (Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Sharon Angle in Nevada, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and a hundred other examples abound).  All of a sudden, every talking head and every political operative in Washington DC and state capitols around the country are saying the Tea Party movement is the most powerful political force in generations.

What you don’t see is that behind the scenes, the Tea Party people have been hard at work taking over the local party organizations — especially in the GOP, but also within the Democratic Party.  We still post screeds online about various issues, but the real work is being done in the trenches, door to door, phone call by phone call, organizing local communities and taking over local party positions.  (See, e.g., the Precinct Project).

If all these people who believe that the industry is broken, that the Association leadership is out of touch, that the MLS is governed by morons, would get out from behind the keyboard and started to do something about it… why, we might have a transformative moment in the real estate industry!

The Leadership Wants It

I don’t pretend to know the MLS and Associations as well as those who have been in this business their entire careers.  But I do think I have a pretty good idea, having worked with, and spoken to a rather large number of the leadership about a wide range of issues.  What I hear from the CEO’s of MLS’s, from the Presidents of Associations, from the “leadership” itself, is how much they all want to hand off the reins to the Next Generation of leaders.  They can’t WAIT to see what the younger, tech-savvy generation of REALTORS will bring to the table.

I had lunch with a highly respected MLS CEO recently who said to me that he felt his time was drawing to a close, that the MLS has become a young person’s game.  He couldn’t wait to see what the 30-somethings and 20-somethings were going to come up with.

I spent a bunch of time earlier this year with an Association leader, who had been President of his local Association multiple times, and is in his seventies.  He was grooming a couple of younger REALTORS to take leadership positions, and couldn’t wait to see what they were going to bring to the table.

NAR puts a focus on YPN (Young Professionals Network), and so do local Associations.  I’m writing this sitting in Houston, about to speak to the Houston Association’s YPN chapter.

Are these the actions of people who just want to defeat innovation wherever it raises its head, and can’t let go of their power no matter what?  No.  These are people who care about the industry, who care about other REALTORS, who care about professionalism, who care about… well, who CARE.  And they want you, the younger generation, to step the hell up.

But you know what they’re not going to accept?  A group of people who actually don’t know what the issues are, who haven’t been involved in the discussions, who don’t understand the operational and strategic realities of either the MLS or the Association sitting on the sidelines bitching and throwing stones.  Would you?

Complain If You Want, But Also Act

You can complain about the situation, how everything is political, and give up and spend your time whining about the out-of-touch leadership… or you can accept the reality of the situation and get to work. If you want to make policy, you have to win elections.  That’s the rule in democracies, and the Association/MLS world we have is, more or less, a democracy.

Volunteer for Technology Committees.  Volunteer for any committee.  Run for office.  Run for the MLS Board.  Go talk to your fellow REALTORS and convince them that you’re right, and that you are the man or woman for the job.  Or get behind someone you believe in and get organizing.  Do something.  Act.

Of course, if you just intend to spout off and get something off your chest, without any intention of doing anything about it… well, it’s a free country.  But don’t expect me, or many others, to take you seriously as when someone like Bill Lublin, who has been involved with Associations for years and years, who is doing something about things, points out a problem.

An aside: in case this is misunderstood as some sort of criticism of Drew Burks, I point out again that he is at least volunteering for his Tech Committee.  Kudos to you, sir, for being involved.  For doing something about it.  I know it’s frustrating, but keep at it, organize support, run for leadership, and transform your frustration into ACTION.  It’s on the shoulders of leaders like you to bring change and innovation to our industry.

I’m getting off my soapbox now; I am also working on something that I think will help change the industry for the better.  See you on the “campaign trail”, as it were.  Rally ’round the family, y’all, with a pocket full of shells.


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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9 thoughts on “Enough With the Talking”

  1. Rob – thanks for posting this AND a big thank you to our good friend Jack for sharing with you. I agree 100% about getting involved, in fact I volunteer on 4 committees, Chair 2 of them and sit on one NAR committee (MLS Policy Review) … my grandparents always told me that you have no right to complain if you don’t vote.

    Will you be at NAR next month?

  2. Amen Rob! So tired of excuses and clinging to CE and the MLS as the benefits of being a REALTOR. As a member of the Exec and Strat Plan Committees on my local board, we are reassessing the value proposition of being a REALTOR in our market. Our board does not own the MLS nor do we have a R/E school for revenue generation. All we have is our collective energy and local knowledge to be the “Voice for Real Estate in Our Own Community”. We must be the resource of information for the consumer, our alliance partners, and our REALTOR members. We must provide REAL, MEASURABLE value for each of them, respectively. We must demonstrate that as REALTORS, we are the better prepared professional to handle a real estate transaction.

  3. As I’ve said time & time again, if you don’t have time to serve, you don’t have time to complain. I’ve been serving in one capacity or another on local, state and now NAR committees/boards for almost 10 years. I’m a single working mom, with 2 teens, and a farm. I don’t EVEN wanna hear the excuses. Oh and I’m one of those somewhat nerdy tech progressive thinkers too, that likes shaking things up. Or shooting them up. 😉 But I’m much more effective doing it from the inside, out. President-Elect Union County NC Assoc of REALTORSFormer NCAR IMAG (Tech Chair) & Board of DirectorNAR State & Local Issues Committee currentlyotherwise known as Lori Bee – aka Bee Realty

  4. Rob, fantastic post. So many are complaining without taking any ownership or making an effort at change. Much easier to just type #FAIL. We must be the change that we want to see in our industry.

    Get involved, the sooner you do the sooner you’ll realize that nothing is easy, and your opinion may not be so brilliant after all. Or maybe you have the solution for the problem, you will never know until you become involved.

    Don’t complain about fellow agents that do a lousy job with photographs or filling out the MLS data – do it better yourself. If you don’t like the MLS system get involved in a committee to change it. Rather than worry about what someone else is doing, try to be your personal best.

    Recently I wrote post in reply to 1000watt and Brian’s post on the fortress of suckitude. Link is included to his post.


    Lori Bee is right, we all have the time to give back and make the changes.

    Keep up the fight Bro

  5. @Mike Pennington – IMO that was PERFECTLY said. It is time to re-assess the value proposition and push things forward.

    @R.O.B. – Beautifully written, man. I think this puts it well…

    “I know it’s frustrating, but keep at it, organize support, run for leadership, and transform your frustration into ACTION. It’s on the shoulders of leaders like you to bring change and innovation to our industry.”

  6. Some MLSs and Associations are more democratic than others. Since I have belonged to several, I have witnessed substantial differences. i.e. A membership where only Brokers vote can have a different flavor than one where voting is open to all members.

    I agree that one should not complain without doing anything. (I am very involved with my local association, as well as WCR and CRS leadership.) We still need the noise levels though, especially in support of change where there is resistance. Hats off to the MLS/AR leaders who welcome new leadership, but that is not the case across the board.

    We need both the noise and the participation. For those who squeak and do, thanks.

  7. We felt the same frustration with the mortgage industry and representation, so we set up a Mortgage Revolution movement and raised $50 in one year for charity. If a few joe schmo struggling loan officers can do something to impact a positive change, then I have full confidence that an organized group of hard working agents can make a difference as well. Good post, Rob.

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