Ask Me a Question

Ever notice how great we—both individuals and organizations—can make ourselves look on paper? Yet while experience suggests that employers have become very adept at getting beyond the resume by asking good questions of employment prospects, a list of questions for those considering a new position as a REALTOR® association executive is not easily found.

In 2013, the Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® was hemorrhaging about $25,000 a year. It did not operate an MLS, and access to MLS data was available through a regional MLS with eight shareholders, any of whom could provide entry. Local membership dues were the highest among 10 surrounding associations. Its territorial jurisdiction of 11 square miles had about 250 agents, and total staff hours were 75 hours per week. Is anyone interested in the job so far?

Fortunately, I had great trust in an AE I had known for 30-plus years and in another state AE and mentor. Both encouraged me to apply.

I knew a bit about the association from my 40 years of selling in the area. It had been formed in 1986 to provide a hyper-local relationship between the members and the community. I knew it did not want to fail, and neither did I.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of such connections, experience and knowledge when seeking a new position. There is, however, information that can provide glimpses into the soul of an association. Here is a non-exhaustive list of what I suggest potential AEs look for.

  1. Look for a mission statement, culture statement or vision statement. If such a statement is not evident, you have an opportunity to help provide this direction.
  2. Look at Core Standards information from the previous two years. This tool is a great way to see what the association does and does not, all in one spot.
  3. Look at the financial information. Knowing who reviews the financials and how frequently will tell you what an incoming AE may need to do to improve the sophistication of the volunteer leadership when it comes to the finances. Also, subtract any revenue supplied by an MLS. This will allow you to see the association’s real financial health.
  4. Look at affiliate benefits and other rights and privileges available to secondary members. Because affiliates are not given access to the MLS, a primary value for REALTOR® members, low numbers or constant turnover of affiliates would indicate they derive no value from membership, meaning the association’s value may be solely MLS-derived.  As MLSs continue to consolidate, associations that do not provide value to their members will no longer need to exist.
  5. Ask the association who it considers its most visible employee. If the receptionist is the first person a member meets when entering the board office, that person is the face of the association. If you have an electronic attendant, remember how you greet members is how members will greet you.
  6. Ask about association metrics. Does the association know its attrition and membership growth rates? How is member engagement measured, excluding MLS-related activities? Are the broker involvement program and calls to action managed at the local level?
  7. How are committees, task forces and work groups populated? Are volunteers invited to apply, or is it a closed popularity contest with the same people participating every year? This may be the real tell of how truly engaged the members are—and are encouraged to be.
  8. What are the nomination and election processes for the board of directors or other such positions? Can individuals self-nominate? What are the basic qualifications for service?
  9. Is there a young professionals network? If there is, what are its governing documents? Such a network is necessary to help grow the next generation of association leaders.
  10. How often is the association’s strategic plan reviewed? A strategic plan today must be a living document.

I suspect it might be intimidating for a job applicant to ask for such specific information. Yet consider how this and other information about a board’s operation, culture and history could help an AE looking for a new opportunity. For an association seeking someone to lead it to the next level, consider how you’d feel about a candidate who took the time to dig this deep.


Written by: Bob Taylor, RCE. Bob is CEO of the Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® in Michigan.


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