Advice for New Chief Staff Executives From Your Peers Who Have Been in the Business for Awhile

Fasten your seat belt, because you’re in for the ride of your life! It does get easier.


  • Live within the budget and notify leadership regarding any significant variances.
  • Have checks and balances to avoid any perception of improprieties.
  • Provide scheduled, periodic financial statements to appropriate committees and leadership.
  • Ensure the association has adequate reserves.
  • Ensure access to necessary outside financial advice, i.e., accountant/bookkeeper.
  • Think outside the box when identifying revenue sources.


  • Review the annual travel calendar with leadership early in the year and budget accordingly.
  • Have a clear, shared understanding of who is responsible for all travel details and reservations. Make hotel reservations early, as headquarter hotels sell out fast.
  • Respect each other’s privacy on the road; don’t share hotel rooms.
  • Be clear about allowed expense limits and respect them. “Per diem” does not mean “seize the day”!
  • Remember that you are working while at the meetings; fulfill all of your responsibilities.


  • Don’t expect to know everything early on – it takes at least six months for everything to come together.
  • Tread lightly at first and don’t try to change too much too fast.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” There is no stupid question.
  • Remember that the process can be as important to the members as the decision reached.
  • Don’t expect leadership to adapt to your way of doing business; you will have to adapt to their way
  • Realize that the members want it all, they want it now, and they want it for nothing.

Professional Standards

  • Keep conversations about professional standards complaints issues to a minimum. Do not discuss the merits of a case or get personally involved in the discussion. You are “only the administrator.”
  • Remember that what you hear is only half the story. Never let anyone say you took one side or the other.
  • Sixty percent of complaint forms mailed out to start the process are not returned by members of the public or a member. Don’t follow-up – They will let you know if they want to proceed with filing a complaint.
  • This is one time when the president (and everyone else) is not privy to the details.


  • Keep your personal and professional relationships separate. You work for the REALTORS -- they are not your friends.
  • Don’t try to do elected leadership’s job. Understand your role and theirs. You have a new boss each year who may be confused that he or she doesn’t administer your role.
  • Prepare to communicate the same message over and over through various channels.
  • Never say what you wouldn’t put in writing. Never put anything in e-mail that you don’t want to see in the newspaper or have to defend in court
  • Do not get involved in member politics, never choose sides, and don’t spread gossip.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Recognize that you cannot make all people happy.
  • Create your own rewards, as you will not get credit for good work/deeds.
  • Beware of hidden agendas with members and staff.
  • Remember that vendor “gifts” come with a price.
  • Know that you are not alone. There is a large AE community ready to help you – just ask!