Tips from a Seasoned Pro

Retiring AE shares the top five things he’s learned in his career.

When Steve Francks, RCE, CAE, retired last year as CEO from Washington REALTORS® after 26 years serving the REALTOR® family, AExperience wondered what words of wisdom he’d like to pass along to his fellow AEs. “There are a lot of ideas I could share, most of which I’ve picked up from others along the way,” he says. “Here are five.”

Steve Francks
  1. Treat your staff like grownups. Be intentional about building a supportive, respectful and collaborative staff culture. Be willing to put your job on the line to protect them if necessary.
  2. Understand and honor the distinctive role of volunteers. Serving as president may be the highlight of a member’s professional life, so help your presidents have a great year—within the bounds of the strategic plan. When the volunteer-staff partnership is clicking, we can achieve great things for our members and communities, and that’s when the fun really starts.
  3. Make sure your strategic plan reflects the association’s direction and goals. The president’s primary job is to help advance the association’s strategic plan, not pursue personal initiatives. Continually monitor the plan’s progress; this holds the association and the AE accountable and helps you demonstrate your value.
  1. Never get complacent. Strive for a culture of continuous improvement that encourages responsible risk-taking and openness to change. Change requires courage, and remember that “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining” (John F. Kennedy).
  2. Be flexible but true to your principles. As AEs, we are constantly making choices and decisions. Do we stand on principle or encourage pragmatic compromise? We must be flexible and willing to change our minds (pro tip: listen to your staff), but we can’t be perceived as feckless or wishy-washy. When making decisions, stay true to your core beliefs. This requires constant introspection, but it’s indispensable to everything you do.

Have More Tips?

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Theo Wins Magel Award

Michael Theo, RCE, CAE

Wisconsin REALTORS® Association CEO Michael Theo, RCE, CAE, was named the winner of the 2023 William R. Magel Award of Excellence by the National Association of REALTORS®. Theo, who retired at the end of 2023, will be recognized at AE Institute in San Diego in March.


Read More About Michael

Mike Theo joined the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association staff in 1985, managing the association’s legal, legislative, political, research and public relations operations. In 2011 he was named President and CEO of the Association. He holds the REALTOR® Association Certified Executive (RCE) designation from the National Association of REALTORS® and the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives. In addition to being a past chair of NAR’s Association Executives Committee, Mike has been active in a number of organizations in the Madison community, including the following:

  • Board of Advisors, Graaskamp Center for Real Estate, UW-Madison School of Business
  • Past Chairman, Wisconsin Society of Association Executives
  • Board of Directors, The Madison Club
  • Board of Directors, Wisconsin Education Business Roundtable
  • Executive Committee, Competitive Wisconsin Inc.
  • Chairman, 2017 Association Executives Committee – National Association of REALTORS®

Mike will be recognized as the 2023 William R. Magel Award of Excellence recipient during the 2024 Joint AE Institute in San Diego in March.

A Spotlight on the Smith Society Inductees

John Gormley, RCE, CAE, CEO, Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, Illinois (left); Michele Holen, RCE, CAE, CEO, Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS®, Oregon (center); and Wil Riley, RCE, CAE, CEO, Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS®, South Carolina (right), are this year’s inductees into the Smith Society. Members of the Dr. Almon R. (Bud) Smith, RCE, AE Leadership Society are leading contributors to the industry and the profession. Hear more from this year’s Smith Society inductees in “Growing an Inclusive Culture.” 


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