Guest Post: When Is A List Not a List

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 11.45.58 AM

I don’t often do these “guest posts” because, well, most such “guest posts” are thinly disguised advertisements for some company or another. I have a co-blogger in the Notorious B.O.B. Bemis, but that’s different.

But I thought this post by Jeremy Conaway of RECon Intelligence Services, was really interesting for the points he brings up. Of course, that he heaped praise on yours truly and Stefan Swanepoel, whom I’ve helped with the new Swanepoel Power 200 list, didn’t hurt any. 🙂 I am, after all, somewhat proud of that list and the work that went into it.

In any event, here it is, after the jump. So many of the points Jeremy brings up are really worth considering for everyone in the industry. Your comments and thoughts are welcome here, or you can contact Jeremy at

When Is A List Not A List?

by Jeremy Conaway

An amazing event happened yesterday and as is the nature of all amazing events our world will be forever changed. The event was the release of the first Swanepoel Power 200, a comprehensive rating of the thought leaders and senior executives of the residential real estate industry designed, produced and written by Stefan Swanepoel, industry chronologist and author of the annual Swanepoel TRENDS Report and Swanepoel TECHNOLOGY Report and co-edited by consultant Rob Hahn.

If the release of the document was an amazing event, its creation was an even greater achievement. Swanepoel and Hahn spend hundreds of hours using algorithms and engaging the level of immense detail and analysis that both have become famous for. The result is a document that dares to evaluate and compare both the power and the potential of the industry’s top thinkers. Previous efforts of this nature have merely identified individuals on a bus headed for destiny this product allows us to view the market from a whole new perspective.

Because of Swanepoel and Hahn’s efforts the industry can now engage in a discussion about direction, potentials and probable outcomes. With this work in hand industry players can now begin to more accurately envision where the industry is going and where they need to position themselves to be part of its success. As a result of this work our industry will never be the same. Hopefully the discussion that will surely emerge from this event will benefit everyone and help raise residential real estate to the next level.

In considering this emerging dialogue several ideas come to mind. The first has to do with the role of the status quo and of history. The Swanepoel Power 200 doesn’t address what is going to happen nor does it applaud past behaviors. It merely identifies who, at this point in time, is positioned for greatness and supremacy. As the business journals reflect every day what happened in the past is no longer a determinant of what is going to happen moving forward. To quote Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo from her recent presentation at DreamForce 13, “One of the few things we know about the future is that it will look nothing like today.” It could be argued that there are a number of individuals named on the document whose presence may be more indicative of their performance in the past than in the future. But even with that adjustment the remaining names will, in all probability, reflect those who will make a difference moving forward.

Reviewing the Swanepoel 200 is much like watching the first lap of a NASCAR race. It is an amazing display of determination, design, horsepower, color and yes, noise. We are, at the same time, impressed with both the similarities of greatness and the differentiations of style. We can only be humbled by the challenges that lie ahead for these esteemed individuals as they navigate what, for most of them, will be the race of a lifetime.

There are many lessons to be learned by those whose names didn’t appear on this special document. The first lesson to be learned is that there is a race going on and that it is without question the most challenging and defining race that this industry has every faced. It is not a race for market share or productivity but, as Keller Williams CEO Mark Willis has often said, it is a race for dominance.

The second lesson is that if you are on the track you are part of the race as no spectators or tourists are allowed. Those on the track and not engaged in the race are likely to be hurt.
The third lesson is that there are many different makes and models of business models in this race and no one knows which model is going to win the race or which is going to show at the finish line. Absolutely no one is guaranteed a position on the final lap. Not all vehicles were designed or even created to be in a race and even fewer have even a chance for victory.
For some on the list the race started years ago, for some the race started this week and for others the race has ended. As it proceeds the racing process will settle out these differences. Unfortunately for both themselves and the remaining competitors there are some Sunday drivers out there.

If you see yourself in the race there are a number of proven concepts and rules that you will have to comply with in order to be successful. First and foremost, racing is not an individual sport, it is a team activity. None of the individuals on the list will win without massive and competent support. This is a time for these leaders to review their teams and determine who on their team can make a contribution to victory and who is just along for the ride. The ultimate loyalty here is to the team not to individuals regardless of history.

There is a significant difference between being a placeholder, promoting the status quo and being a competitive organization. The fact that an organization has held a top market position for many years is not an indicator that they will hold that position moving forward.

One of the wild cards in this race will be the role that agents play. For many entities the agent will be a handicap and/or a restrictor plate. Although agents might well play and could play an important role, this race will not, in the end, revolve around the agent. That is not the way of capitalism or free enterprise. Equal to the role of the agent will be the influence of Wall Street. If the traditional objective of a brokerage is a happy agent, the absolute objective of a public held entity is building shareholder value. Shareholder value is currently playing a major (even if yet disclosed) role in our industry.

REALTOR® Associations at all levels must take special notice of the race. First of all, they are not on the track and therefore they can’t win. However, they can prevail and make a difference it they are associated with the right team and/or the right program, product or service. With the winning prize will come the right to determine what role, if any, will be played by the entities that comprise what is commonly known as “organized real estate.” Interestingly enough this will include both NAR and the Realty Alliance.

The key to being an effective competitor in this race will be the incorporation of strategies and tactics that reflect today’s field not the 1985 Grand Prix.

The Swanepoel Power 200 provides us with an excellent sense of who is holding both the “pole” and the best “grid” positions. However, as American Business has proved over and over again over the years being the “polesitter” is a very temporary position if it is not supported by the right team, resources, strategies and tactics. Being the polesitter is cool during the prerace process but remember, “Leaders can only go backwards.”

This race has already produced a high level of “bumping” and it will get even more combative as it proceeds. If you team is “bumping adverse” best to get it off the track now. Slower cars will not be invited to leave the track they will be bumped off of it.

Every team must have a “pit” strategy. Most industry entities reflected on the Swanepoel Power 200 will not be able to either win or finish the race in their current configurations. Some part of their competitive resources will have to be committed to this reconfiguration process and timing that process will be critical.

Keep in mind that there are few rules in this race and, at this time, even less regulation. However, an increasing number of experts are warning the field that at any time the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) may introduce a yellow flag. As the mortgage industry is even now learning when that flag appears the race will be halted while compliance is achieved.

This will require another strategy.

The introduction of the Swanepoel Power 200 marks the entry of the industry into a new era that has been forming over the past few years. It serves as a wakeup call for everyone, especially those who would suggest that all we have to do is to return to the basics. There are no simple competitive solutions here, only old lessons updated to new realities, only commitments and competencies, only courage, creativity and ingenuity.

If your organization is in a status quo posture then the Swanepoel Power 200 is merely a beauty pageant. If your organization is in racing form then recognize that this is an open class race with few rules and that bumping will be required.

For those who will be neither on the track or in the pits use the Swanepoel Power 200 as a invaluable guide to follow the excitement, the anxiety and the challenge that is currently the American residential real estate marketplace. Don’t focus on who is in what position, it doesn’t matter. From this point forward performance, creativity and, perseverance will determine the field.

Thank you Stefan and Robert. You have done us a great service. We look forward to sharing both the race and next year’s Power 200.

Share & Print

Picture of Rob Hahn

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.

Get NotoriousROB in your Inbox

The Future of Brokerage Paper

Fill out the form below to download the document