Sep. 23, 2011 - Last in the Series: The Interim AE Job Description
I recently attended a meeting of several association execs and MLS CEOs where we spent a couple of days brainstorming and fantasizing about our jobs, our roles in organized real estate, and the state of the industry in general. At the end of the session, we asked each other the question “What will you take back with you to the Real World? How has this two day discussion influenced you professionally?”
I had to think about that for quite a while. What I know about my position as a retired AE/current consultant is that I don’t have the power to make the Big Changes in the real estate industry. I am never going to make the Forbes list, or even the Inman list. What I can share is some practical knowledge and a perspective that comes from the outside looking in on the association’s daily management activities. What I can do is drop a few breadcrumbs here and there and hope that they will be helpful to you on your path to your goals.
During these most recent think tank meetings, one of the participants turned to me and asked, “So Judith, what’s behind these last couple of blogs you’ve written? Why are you thinking about interim association managers?”
Good question. In part, it’s because I was recently asked if I would consider being an interim AE for three months and I had to answer the question, “If I were to do this, how would I go about it?” The other part is that my church just engaged an interim minister, and I began to understand the value of a well-defined breathing space for an organization which is undergoing some significant transitions.
What this latter process also taught me is that ‘interim’ doesn’t mean ‘placeholder’. It suggests using the transition period to regroup, get healthy, heal wounds, find direction, and move forward. An interim minister in our church setting is a specialist at being ‘interim’. He or she is not expected to fill the permanent position—the interim is a trained expert in the techniques of transition and the job description is clear.
With that in mind, I wrote a hypothetical job description for a transitional AE. The following is just meant to be a template—feel free to use it and/or modify it to suit your needs.
INTERIM ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE
SAMPLE POSITION DESCRIPTION
Sample Job Description
I. POSITIONInterim Association Executive (GM)/Chief Executive Officer)
II. JOB SUMMARY
Serves as interim general manager/chief operating officer of the association on a temporary basis. The interim AE is responsible for all aspects of the association including its activities and the relationships between the organization and its members, employees, community, government and other tiers of the Realtor organization. Sustains and administers the association’s policies as defined by its bylaws, policies and direction of the board of directors. Directs the work of all department managers; monitors the budget; oversees the quality of the association’s products and services and ensures maximum member satisfaction unless otherwise directed by the board of directors. Secures and protects the organization’s assets, including facilities and equipment.
III. JOB DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Implements general policies established by the organizations Board of Directors, and directs the implementation and execution of those policies. Plans, develops and approves specific operational policies, programs, procedures and methods in concert with the general policies of the NAR and/or the association’s local board of directors. Coordinates the development of the association’s operational plan, and prepares a 90-day transitional action plan in concert with the board of directors prior to the hiring of a permanent AE. Develops and administers a sound organizational plan and initiates operational improvements and structures a plan for their implementation. Monitors policies relating to personnel actions and training and professional development programs. Conducts a human resources audit. Ensures that the association’s current policy handbook covers all necessary topics such as sexual harassment, conflict of interest, and whistleblower policies. Maintains an active and informed relationship with the State and National Realtor organization, and oversees the implementation of appropriate mandated policies and activities. Attends conferences and professional education sessions as approved by the Board of Directors of the Association.
Coordinates development of operating and capital budgets according to the organizations calendar, and monitors monthly and other appropriate financial statements. Takes corrective action as required. Upon arrival, the interim AE evaluates all budgets to ensure that they are supported by appropriate details, and conducts an audit of existing organizational resources such as buildings, equipment, and financial reserves.
Coordinates and serves as ex-officio member of the board of directors and of association committees.
IV. SAMPLE JOB DESCRIPTION
· Provides advice and recommendations to the president and appropriate committees about materials, supplies, equipment and services not provided in approved plans and/or budgets
· Ensures that the organization is operated in accordance with applicable local, state, and federal laws
· Oversees care and maintenance of all the organizations physical assets and facilities
· Coordinates marketing and membership relations programs to promote the associations services and programs to present and potential members
· Develops a membership marketing program for members and affiliates
· Ensures the highest standards are met in enforcing professionalism within the organization
· Monitors compliance with state and national Realtor organization policies
· Analyzes financial statements, manages cash flow and establishes controls to safeguard funds, if needed.
· Reviews income and costs relative to goals and takes corrective action as necessary.
· Attends meetings of the organization’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee
· Participates in other activities judged appropriate and approved by the board of directors to enhance the prestige of the organization
· Broadens the scope of the association by fulfilling its public obligations
· Serves as liaison between the staff and the board, as appropriate
· Implements policies concerning employee-employer relations
· Develops and maintains a basic management philosophy to guide association personnel toward optimal operating results, employee morale, and member satisfaction.
· Prepares reports and other supporting material for committee and board use.
· Negotiates and recommends Board approval for contracts
· Establishes and approves workloads, work methods, and performance standards
· Gives direction to and works closely with vendors, outside contractors, firms and individuals providing service to the association.
· Directs the association’s communications programs
· Performs other duties as directed by the president and the board.
· Assists in the search for a permanent AE
V. REPORTS TO President and Board of Directors
VI. SUPERVISES All Staff
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Perspective On The Housing Market – Localized Solutions Needed (Part 2)0Email0Digg0
by Donna Robinson - 21 September 2011
As I noted in part one of this two part commentary, the U.S. Housing market is not one big market, but rather a large collection of individual markets with individual problems which will respond best to individual solutions customized for a specific local market.
With this fact in mind, I’d like to list some ideas for how to address housing problems at the local level. Ideas which can be implemented locally by the local groups who are most affected and have the most to gain by implementing these solutions.
First, let’s address the over arching government solutions being attempted now, and from there we’ll move into a localized approach.
As I write this, media reports indicate that the Federal Reserve is considering taking action that will reduce interest rates further. While low interest rates have been the traditional way to spur housing sales in the past, the problems this time are much more systemic. Unemployment and under-employment are preventing a housing recovery. Lowering interest rates further is not going to make any significant difference in housing sales, if buyers can’t afford to buy or don’t qualify to begin with.
The low interest rates are taking a different toll this time, by eroding the income of seniors and those who expected income from savings and investments to carry them into retirement. We are seeing a big trend towards reverse mortgages for seniors above the age of 62, who thought income from their savings would carry them through retirement.
Low interest rates have wiped out that income to a great degree, and as a result, we are seeing a new wave of reverse mortgages as seniors “pawn” their homes to the bank, to generate additional income. This trend will soon become another housing crisis waiting to happen if it continues unabated.
Further, the secondary mortgage market has little incentive for new investment when interest rates are virtually at zero. The risk is simply not worth the paltry rewards. While I realize that there would be some near term pain to allowing rates to increase slowly, I believe that housing would benefit in the long term, because rising interest rates would provide seniors and other savers with more income from their investments, and would generate more investment in the secondary mortgage market, which would make more capital available for mortgage lending. This could in turn, lead to more sales in housing, leading to more jobs, and help speed an economic recovery without unhealthy increases in housing prices. But this is highly unlikely under Ben Bernanke, so the local players are left to take constructive action to help their local markets.
Realtors must take more of a lead role in helping identify local market problems, and develop local market solutions. No single group has more “boots on the ground” than the National Association of Realtors. Real estate agents are the one group that has the data and the man-power to address local real estate market issues throughout the entire U.S. Yet they don’t take advantage of this power. Most agents are kept busy worrying about the latest rule changes related to earnest money handling or fair housing laws. But it’s agents who know their local market better than anyone else. They know what is selling and what isn’t. They know where the problem areas in their market are.
Local Realtor boards should be organizing a local task force to identify their local market issues, and come up with creative solutions for those local problems. Then coordinate their efforts with the lenders, attorneys, builders and local government development authorities or planning and zoning boards in their local market to help formalize real solutions at the local level.
Builders are another group that has suffered tremendously from the housing down turn, yet their lack of attention to fundametals in supply and demand, as well as median local income was one of the primary problems leading to the housing crash. Uncontrolled building without regard for buyer demand and local affordability is a recipe for disaster.
Local Home Builder Associations should make an effort to keep their members abreast of the key market fundamentals that will directly effect builder success. Primary among those are the overall supply of new homes available for sale, relative to buyer demand, and local income levels, which will dictate what local buyers can actually afford to pay for housing. Builders must learn to maintain a balance between supply and demand, and build homes that their local market can afford to buy.
Otherwise, they will be doomed to repeated boom and bust cycles.
The last building boom was a feeding frenzy that got out of control and left a stripped out, dead carcass of half finished neighborhoods in it’s wake. If the local builders take a more balanced approach to building, and manage the supply of new homes more effectively, they won’t have to worry about going belly up and taking their local bank with them. The supply-demand-affordability fundamentals must be managed to insure that the construction industry does not have a continuing boom-bust cycle every few years.
Real Estate Investors can contribute as well, by taking up the over-supply that exists now in the form of foreclosed homes and distressed properties that are sitting on the market. Investors should act responsibly as well, by not engaging in shady or questionable tactics that may be taught at high priced seminars, but are simply not beneficial to their customers or their overall business stability.
Investor Associations should focus more on investing with integrity and honesty, and a customer service attitude fitting of any american business enterprise that wants to be successful for the long term. Allowing seminars that promote big money at the expense of distressed sellers and ignorant buyers is not only irresponsible, but it contributed significantly to the housing market crash. I know. I’ve been a member of a number of investor associations and I know first hand how many seminars there were that encouraged irresponsible behavior for the sake of quick profits. Millions of investors went broke follow the so-called “gurus”. Many of the biggest gurus themselves have gone bankrupt with the schemes they were allowed to teach to others.
Real Estate investing is a great way to build a small business, contribute to employment in the construction sector, and build real wealth when it’s done correctly. Investor Associations should emphasize the fundamentals of the housing market, so that investors can make better investing decisions and build stable businesses. Promoting get rich quick schemes may “sell better” but it was the investors following the irresponsible advice of greedy gurus and promoters who were the first to feel the effects of the housing market crash.
Today investor association participation is at an all time low, and it’s primarily because they ran their members into the ground with shoddy investment advice and gimmicks that simply did not work while ignoring the market fundamentals. There are still investor associations in virtually every large city in the U.S. They have the capability to influence investors for good, but the question is, will they do it?
Finally, if Congress really wants to do something to help the entire U.S. Housing market, they should reinstate the home buyer tax credit, with NO requirement to pay that credit back. The one bounce we’ve had in housing sales data was during the months when the home buyer tax credit was in effect. As soon as it expired, housing continued it’s downward slide. It’s funny how the government can’t seem to get rid of bad programs that waste taxpayer money, but when it comes to a tax credit that actually did help, they have no problem at all with getting rid of it.
While there are many other potential ideas for helping generate a housing recovery, the bottom line is that the fundamentals will always dictate the best choice of strategy for maintaining a healthy and vibrant housing market. The long term solution is to pay attention to the local market fundamentals and make adjustments to your business or investing strategy accordingly. Ignoring the fundamentals is what got us here. Knowing the local market fundamentals and working with those fundamentals is what will get us out of this funk, and keep us out.
The old saying is true, pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered. The housing market crash was nothing more than a slaughter house for real estate hogs in lending, building, investing and buying, who tried to take more than their local market fundamentals would allow.***
Friday, September 16, 2011
ep. 16, 2011 - Part Two: The Interim AE--A Case Study
"I'm sorry," Al said. "I really am. But my wife has this great offer for a three-year work assignment in Paris, and I'd like to go, too. It's an offer she can't pass up, and I want to be with her. I hate leaving the association high and dry, but...."
The leadership looked at each other, bewildered. There was no transition plan, needless to say: a transition roadmap was something that the board had on its 'to do' list, but had remained fairly low as a priority while other concerns attracted resources and energy. Now what would they do? Al planned to leave them in just a few weeks, and time was running short.
To make matters worse, the association was in the middle of a strategic planning activity. It has become clear to leadership that the industry profile was rapidly changing: the real estate brokerages had become leaner and more dependent on technology, the sources of income from MLS operations had diminished due to a regionalization program, and the focus of the organization was becoming more directed to providing support services for consumers as well as members. All of these trends were requiring a restructuring of the association's resources and direction. It was a time of significant change.
Al could not be leaving at a worse time. How would the association replace his knowledge and leadership? And how could the leadership find someone of a senior executive level to guide them through finalizing and implementing the strategies to accommodate the dramatic changes that were taking place in the real estate industry?
The National Association of Realtors provided the association with an answer: the Human Resources department suggested hiring an interim Association Executive to manage operations until a permanent hire could be put in place. "We've experienced the retirement of several successful CEOs," NAR told the association president. "Why not consider hiring a professional to lead you through this transition?"
NAR presented the board with several resumes, and the association was able to secure the temporary services of a seasoned AE with 25 years of Realtor association management experience. The interim AE came to the association with a clear understanding of the temporary nature of the appointment and of the work which the association needed: to continue operations of current programs and services, to guide the organization through the remainder of the strategic planning process, to organize and train staff to better serve the new directions the association was taking, and to assist in revamping the internal organizational structure to increase its capacity to meet new challenges. And the over-riding mission of the interim AE: to guide the group through a successful search process resulting in a permanent hire for the top management position.
What did the association gain from this solution to suddenly losing its Association Executive?
1. The association bought time in which to make a considered decision in hiring the right person. It did not expend volunteer resources in trying a do-it-yourself solution, and it did not spend unnecessary time and political capital in hiring the wrong person in haste.
2. The association brought the right skill set to the job at hand, which was to manage the transition period and prepare the way for the permanent AE.
3. The new permanent AE was positioned for success. The association had defined its goals, written a clear job description for the new CEO, implemented a fair and thorough search process, discussed with staff the need to meet the requirements of new goals, and instilled confidence in the members.
4. The association benefited from the advice of an objective and experienced short term manager.
5. The association (and the interim manager) were able to focus on key priorities. Because there was a clear 'end date' to the relationship, and an established set of benchmarks, the association did not get bogged down in side issues and unimportant disruptions. It was a very productive transition time for all concerned.
Granted, this article is billed as a case study--your organization may not fit this exact description. But there are many situations when an interim AE may be an excellent solution:
- When a long term, well-loved AE is leaving the association, and distance is needed (There's an adage for that: “I don't want to follow Bud. I want to be the person who follows the person who follows Bud");
- When there is significant political disruption accompanying the departure of an executive;
- When immediate leadership is needed, and it is clear that the hiring process will take a long time;
- When the association is evolving and the long-term needs are unclear, as are the extent of the organizational resources needed to meet those needs.
In recent years the Realtor organization has experienced the loss of many seasoned AEs, often baby-boomers who have reached retirement age. The Realtor organization can use these people as resources in many ways: as consultants, as mentors, and as interim association executives who can share their knowledge, leadership and experience at times when local and state organizations most need these qualities.
(If your organization needs help in developing a transition plan for planned and unplanned replacements of your chief staff executive, I can help. Contact Judith@judithlindenau.com. If you need further information on an interim AE program, contact NAR's Human Resource Department for more information. Fee-based consulting services are also available from NAR: contact Donna Garcia, Director Human Resource Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 312-329-8311. )
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Monday, September 5, 2011
Many great men and women have been there — a life-changing idea for a website, but the domain name is out of your control. Luckily Mr. Dmitry Davydov over at Pickydomains was able to offer up gems of wisdom. After helping to name over 1500 online businesses since 2007, I figure he’d have a few tricks up his sleeve. Here’s what he suggests-1. Nameboy
Nameboy.Com is a free domain suggestions tool that uses keyword algorithms to automatically create domain names and check them for availability. Since all domains are generated by machine, most of suggestions are outright unusable, however you can get some ideas by using NameBoy. Free is free.2. PickyDomainsUnlike Nameboy, PickyDomains.com is powered by humans. This service is inexpensive ($50) and you pay only if you decide to register one of the suggested domains. If you don’t like anything, you don’t pay anything. If you are good with words, you might want to try it on the contributor side, as 40%-60% of that client fee is paid to the contributor who made the winning suggestion.3. StuckdomainsThere are a number of services in this niche both free and paid. Expired domains are domains that have been previously registered and have since become available. The advantages and disadvantages of buying expired domain are the same – you inherit all the history, which could be free type-in traffic and existing backlinks, but it also could be banned from search engines for violations.If you need a domain name for commercial purposes, it might be worthwhile to see if related trademarks have already been registered. Uncle Sam gives you antiquated but free online service for that.A great name won’t make or break the success of your venture – indeed, “Google” and “Accenture” have done quite alright, even with kinda goofy names. However, it never hurts your chances of success to have a great name that immediately says what your companies offers – like Groupon or Facebook. Taking advantage of the above tools will increase your audience and simplify the creation process.
And while we're talking about top level domains, let's look at domain names in general. Does your organization's domain name say what will stick in consumer's minds? Is it uniquely yours?
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Sep. 4, 2011 - The Answer Site: a Social Media Tool for Successful Real Estate Communities
“Not another social media column,” you grumble. “I am Facebooked and GooglePlused and Tweeted to boredom and back. And I haven’t got any new satisfied customers to show for it. Social media is hype—all Stetson and no horse.”
“Now just a minute,” I reply. “Social media is not about Tweeting your breakfast cereal preference. And it’s not about finding new buyers for your product or dropping breadcrumbs of information in front of your members. Social media is about creating a community—a group which shares interests, beliefs, or knowledge. It’s about bringing people together, enabling them to bond through shared interests and information. It’s not about YOU, Bucko, it’s about the community you create or join.”
In real estate, the community is about buyers, sellers, and property owners. As real estate association managers, we often think our community is our members—but that target market definition is expanding and shifting as we speak: as our members become more and more aware that the consumer’s interests will direct their business structure, so must associations realize that public demands will shape the future of the association.
In a recent blog from the WAV group, the author observes that traditional MLSs are focused on communication with their members. However, “More aggressive MLSs are putting themselves in the center of the conversation about real estate issues by communicating to consumers. They do this with public facing websites, publishing market trends, issuing press releases to local media outlets and hosting real estate related events. In this regard, the MLS is an advocate and connector between consumers and the professional real estate family.”
I know, I know—there are still the foot-draggers who mutter imprecations about the MLS that competes with the broker business—but those are the folks who don’t know a whole lot about current consumer interests (“give me efficient, anonymous access to all the information I need in one place”) and search engine optimization (“eighty percent of house hunters begin their search on Google or a similar search engine, so you need to get mentioned ‘above the fold’, i.e. in the first eight responses”). These are, of course, results which a large group such as an association or an MLS organization can produce better than a single company can.
Cooperation, after all, extends to areas far greater than individual property sales. And a cooperative community is what a trade association is all about.
As the WAV group blog points out, there are many ways to cooperate in building a consumer community which is supportive of the real estate business, and which is knowledgeable and informed about property and property transactions. The creation of such a community does, of course, benefit everyone—brokers and salespeople, buyers, sellers, and the real estate business periphery as well.
The bottom line for associations and MLSs: adopt building such a community as one of your goals. Be direct and proactive about it—ask yourself, “WWCW” (“What would consumers want?”).
One thing we know without much additional research is that consumers want trustworthy, complete information. In my many years as a real estate association executive, I came to dread The Cocktail Party. Invariably I would be cornered by some member of the public with a real estate question (“What’s a good price for waterfront property?”) or a horror story (“MY agent never told me about that perfect house on Sycamore Street and somebody else bought it before I had a chance!”). I had a great deal of sympathy for my doctor friends, who admitted that they studiously avoided those same parties because someone always needed an on-the-spot diagnosis, or wanted to show them a surgery scar.
My question to Associations and MLS organizations is, why not create a consumer conversation site as a part of your web presence? These sites have become increasingly popular in recent years: perhaps the most well-known popular one is the Yahoo! Answers site, which encourages community questions and encourages a game-like atmosphere of building points for answers.
Most real estate answer sites would most likely be simpler than these examples: such a website could be limited to real estate-related questions, particularly as they involved the local or regional marketing area. It could be set up with a bank of ‘experts’ providing answers and resources—and including zoning administrators and others, as well as invitees for specific issues. Of course you might want to build some controls into the answer providers: avoiding liability, wrong answers, and blatant sales solicitations are pitfalls to avoid.
As far as the technology is concerned, a Q & A site that is narrowly focused will probably have a manageable amount of traffic, and can have a simple format: give the public a place to post questions, and give your organization a column to answer them. If you want more elaborate interface, explore the online answer site providers like AnswerBase or QHub . The Q&A Script program will look a lot like the Yahoo! Answers format, if that better suits your site, or you can explore the possibility of the Wordpress Plugin for a blog: for an $89 investment you might turn a blog into a wealth of information (and generate a little cash and a few more visitors) in the process, or there’s a geographically specific Wordpress Real Estate plugin which incorporates real estate answers for your specific zip code area.The benefits of a Q&A site:
· Your organization becomes an authority on the subject.
· Generally Q and A sites have good public relations value
· Q and A sites index quickly on search engines
· Traffic can be instant, even less than a minute if it's a fresh question.
· You are creating a stronger, more positive and helpful real estate community
It’s time to move our thinking to creating more dialogue with the public—with using our MLS and association websites to move beyond our members as a target market. In so doing, we can indeed create a better environment in which our members can flourish.