14 November 2008

NAR 2008 – It’s a Wrap… and it was pretty interesting!

(This is one of my longest posts ever! Good for a weekend read…)

When you are building a brand from the ground up, you can’t do it without receiving feedback. What better place to get feedback than at the annual NAR conference where you have a captive audience of some 20,000+ REALTORS® to talk to?

I have been attending this conference for at least the past 15 years.  I still remember my very first one. I just couldn’t get enough of it… the amount of information was staggering to me, the number of participants amazed me. I planned each and every session I would attend in advance, circled all of the trade show booths that were of interest, and visited them all. In later years, I began to speak at sessions rather than attend them and, for a few years, did not even make it through the tradeshow doors. Priorities change, and people get busy being busy.

This year, I made a commitment to myself to begin to do things differently. To take time to speak to the agents, the brokers, listen to their stories, ask for feedback, and attend education sessions. Be with the people. What I learned was very interesting and validated my thinking about the future of the business.

Wednesday evening: I ran into several people in my hotel lobby. Brokers commented on continuing to pare back, right-size yet still look for strategic growth opportunities. MLS executives asked for feedback on their own business models, offered help. Refreshing.

Thursday morning: I had breakfast with a group of women, some of whom were attending the Women’s Council of REALTORS sessions that day. We talked about the future and what it would look like. We talked about it being the era of the consumer, and what we need to do to educate our agents to meet consumer expectations — to be an agent of the future. Validating.

Thursday evening: The LORE / Real Trends Top 200 agent dinner was elegant and sophisticated. The cream of the crop – best of the best was being honored. I was pleasantly surprised at how humble and grateful everyone was. These are people who found ways to excel in challenging times, but want to make it clear that they couldn’t have done it without the help of their broker, their brand. Are we becoming a kinder, gentler breed? I like it.

Friday morning: I presented a case study of the BHGRE launch to the group at the Bloodhound Unchained conference. It is exciting to meet in person some of the people I only know online through the various social networking sites. It feels like I have some new friends, and I am impressed by the passion of this group, the eagerness to learn and absorb. Being at this event reminded me why I love this business.  I am energized.

Friday afternoon: I presented at NAR – my topic is about networking, with the emphasis on social networking. It’s a “how to” for broker owners.  I will write a post on this next week and share some of the slides. It was great to have some old friends in the audience, as well as new ones! I am feeling supported.

Friday night: The infamous RISMedia Power Broker Dinner takes place. It’s an invitation only event – open to only the largest companies and sponsors. I had decided to invite some guests who would never have attended in the past. We sent out invitations to people we are working with, potential strategic partners, people interested in the future of the business;  in the end, and for fun, I sent a message out on Facebook and Twitter, extending an invitation to online friends to attend. A number of people responded.  It was fun. Alex Perriello won an award, and spoke about his “Save the Dream” initiative.  Brokers in the audience followed up, asking for information on how to participate. Feels like we are all on the same team. For the first time.

Saturday evening: During the several receptions we attended, the mood was what I would call encouraging. People exchanging ideas and offering to help one another. People reaching out to each other in a sincere, not superficial, way. Another reason why I love this business. I am encouraged.

Sunday afternoon: I position myself at the BHGRE booth for the afternoon, all by myself. Many people stop by, some looking for jobs, some interested in the brand, others just to talk. It was a great afternoon. People are responding to the brand.

Sunday evening: I join the masses at Universal Studios after having dinner with some Canadian friends. It has been a long time since I actually went on the rides… what fun! But running into and taking the time to talk to many, many people was the highlight of the evening. And everyone had a lot to say.  Everyone is searching for answers. Looking for leadership.

Monday: One last trip through the trade show, and l notice that NAR has changed their color to green. Are they copying BHGRE? Being green is good.

Major takeaways to share:
•    We have entered a new era, the era of the consumer. They have access to all of the information. Our role will not be changing in a few years, it has already changed. Everyone needs to know that.
•    Agents, for the most part, have embraced this and are looking for ways to implement the new model to service consumers. Agents are looking for leadership.
•    The education sessions were jammed – everyone looking for the secret sauce to help make them successful now and in the future. Unfortunately, not many of the sessions addressed the present and future of the business. As brokers, make sure your agents have access to education and information to help them with the real estate industry now, and how to service the new breed of consumer.
•    Agents are ready and eager to change, without question. They are not only looking for leadership, they will embrace it wholeheartedly. This is my biggest takeaway.
•    Broker owners are worrying that agents do not want to embrace change, and are fearful of taking a risk in this market. My note to brokers – you must change to ensure the future success of your business.
•    Thanks to technology, the lines of communication are completely open. As a broker owner or agent, be sure to take advantage of this as much as you can. It is called collaboration. The next wave of buyers and sellers are upon us. They are here now and over 70M of them are under the age of 35. Remember that. The success or failure of your business depends on it.

7 thoughts on “NAR 2008 – It’s a Wrap… and it was pretty interesting!

  1. Sherry,

    NAR2008 was a wonderful event. The optimism and good energy defies all the talk about gloom and doom!

    Congratulations on presenting a wonderful face for BHG … I just love the GREEN approach … and how amazing to see BHG in every nook and cranny of the RE net! BHG is destined for a wonderful ride, I am sure.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your wrap-up and impressions on the recent NAR convention. I would agree with much of what you said. There is a real thirst for visionary leadership.

    The challenge is in finding leaders who are willing to bravely forge through the mist and chaos to create a path which brings us through the fog into a professional environment which is ready to serve the emerging market.

  3. Sherry,
    Great wrap up to the convention. I found the whole convention very energizing… the speakers, the technology, the vendors. Now it’s time to implement everything we learned. I’m looking forward to it!

  4. Very nice. I like reading your posts… you are always such a ray of sunshine.

    I too found people that weren’t receptive before are now listening. I found when they were fat, they didn’t have the “time” to listen. Now, preaching my technology and efficiency, they almost have to listen. I made some great contacts and hope to spread my concepts far and wide to the benefit of the whole industry. Solutions to websites that don’t produce leads (because they are conceptualized by people that have never been on the street), communication tools for brokers an brands that need to find new ways to provide value to their agents in a new era. After 10 years… maybe…

    I found it no surprise the convention offerings were a lot of the same. I attended the TLC (Technology Learning Center) and they had the same classes as years before. Word, Excel, zzzzz (although the PDA classes are always good). And this after I gave them an outline on how to tie social networking to their websites to their communication devices to closing the sale. They seemed a bit more interested this time though, so maybe they will finally let me show the practical application of technology to their audiences…

    There were a few cool new ideas from the expo. Diamonds in the rough, so to speak.

    Your class on social networking was just right. You kept it simple and addressed common sense issues like remaining professional with pictures, etc. I enjoyed the class and appreciate anyone with solid industry experience presenting technology from that perspective. It is soooooo important…

    There was another class that I found interesting. A broker showed how she was able to create a successful ‘virtual office’ using technology in new and creative ways. I was impressed. She was saving 20K/month over traditional methods. I gave her a couple more tools after the class was over. She was excited to see them. She just may be an early model of the future of brokerage…

    Any broker looking to compete in the market of the future? It’s easy… with the right technology you can reduce costs and increase value to both the agent and the consumer. It really is easy… you just have to know where to look.

    Honestly, this market has a silver lining – it is forcing people to get better and driving out those that don’t want to be.

  5. Lola and Flo, thanks for your comments. You are both right, leadership and execution – it always boils down to those 2 crucial things. And their couldn’t be a time where we need both more than right now. Look forward to future thoughts from both of you.

  6. Jack – thanks for your insight, you and I are totally on the same page. I couldn’t agree with you more, “this market has a silver lining” and people will get better at what they do and how they offer services to consumers. It is going to be a very interesting few years. Very interesting.

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