At the State and Local Forum on Global Business in San Francisco last month, leaders on the association staff and member side gathered to discuss best practices, new ideas and challenges involved with starting or growing global programs at REALTOR® organizations. Over the next few days on The Global View blog, we’ll be sharing the ideas that came out of their conversations about specific (yet hypothetical) scenarios commonly found when undertaking global initiatives.

The first scenario involves planning a trade mission to a foreign country:

We are a 1,500 member board with recent approval for starting a Global Committee. We have a Chair, Vice Chair and 10 members that were hand-picked by the President. First order of business is that we want to put together a trade mission to the Bahamas. It sounds like fun and we’d do it during the dead of winter to entice our members to go. Now what do we do?

Here are some of the ideas the group came up with at the meeting:

  • Check with local members to find out who might have experience doing some sort of business in the Bahamas (or whatever country you’re interested in).
  • Determine how you’ll publicize the trade mission to members, and which members you’ll want to target for participation.
  • Contact any local trade organizations that may have insight into how business is done in that country.
  • Contact trade representatives at the nearest consulate for that country or the national embassy in Washington, D.C., to find out more about how business is done in that country.
  • Find local real estate organizations and companies (commercial and residential developers, for example) that your group can meet with while in the Bahamas.
  • Create a list of specific goals for the trip, and discuss how you want to accomplish them with trade mission participants.
  • Find out if there are any significant upcoming real estate or business events in the Bahamas to help you plan the timing of your visit.
  • If your association doesn’t have the appointments already, reach out to NAR’s President’s Liaison or Ambassador Association to the Bahamas, as they can give you more insight into the country and make introductions to key figures in that nation’s real estate sector.
  • Develop an itinerary for the trip that mixes professional networking and development opportunities with fun and interesting interactions with a new culture.

And here’s more advice from the staff at NAR:

Trade missions are labor- and resource-intensive, so they should focus on business first and foremost — ideally, in a location that can generate referral revenue — rather than provide a fun diversion for a few members. Before you embark on any global programming, you should survey your membership to see if they’re doing international deals (and if so, where and how often) and what they want from the association. Also, use the online database on to learn about NAR's bilateral partnership in that country and find contacts at the cooperating association.

Generally, trade missions are best supported after a year or two (at least) of successful global operations in other areas, such as education and networking. Start small and build momentum. There are several steps to be taken before a trade mission is offered.