Broker Summits

It’s all about educating and connecting with brokers.

Real estate brokers know change is constant—and learning about those changes is vital. But most of us learn only when we care about the topic and we trust the messenger. That’s why relationships matter when it comes to broker education. 

Several state and local associations are firm believers in holding annual or biennial broker summits—one- or two-day educational and networking events just for brokers. The goal is to keep brokers up to date on the latest hot-button industry and economic issues affecting their profitability, legal liability, and future success. When done right, these events solidify the association’s role as a trusted resource and valuable business partner.

But are broker-only events right for every REALTOR® association?

Why host a broker summit?

“If you educate brokers, the agents will be educated. Then when they become brokers, they train their agents. That’s how you turn the tide,” says Holly Eslinger, a broker-owner in Phoenix and chairwoman of the Arizona Association of REALTORS®’ Broker University program. Eslinger helped start the group’s first broker summit 10 years ago. “I see a great need for broker education, but the brokers themselves often don’t see it. Brokers think they know all they need to know because they sold real estate. After maybe three years, they start their own company and bring on a few agents. They need support—but brokers only know what they learned as agents.”

Bill Martin, CEO of the Michigan Association of REALTORS®, describes his organization’s broker summits as opportunities for conversations beyond continuing education and license requirements—held in a fairly intimate setting with 100 to 150 members attending. “It’s more high-level information,” Martin says. “It’s about the business climate, what to expect today, and giving them a crystal ball for the economic situation and how to better respond for the future.”

Broker summits can tear down boundaries and inspire new leaders. “Summits are not just for big brokers; they’re for broker-agents as well as broker-owners,” says Dave Bert, CEO of the Iowa Association of REALTORS®. “They all have leadership abilities, so the more ears the better.” For eight years, his association has hosted summits attracting more than 100 brokers at each event, including many from rural communities. Recent topics have included risk management (with a focus on rural issues), local economic development, and a National Association of REALTORS® speaker on the benefits of participation in national “Calls for Action.”

The National Association of REALTORS®’ broker summit in Atlanta in August attracted 200 brokers from across the country (with 80 on the waiting list) and featured two days of sessions focused on management issues.  NAR 2014 President Steve Brown, along with Large Firm Relations Liaison Steve A. Brown and Terry Hankner, a broker and chairperson of NAR’s Idea Exchange Council for Brokers, developed the agenda that included everything from a legislative outlook and risk management to management styles and branding.

The notion for NAR’s 2014 REALTOR® Broker Summit came from the first meeting of the Idea Exchange Council for Brokers in May 2013, says NAR President Steve Brown. “That first meeting was standing room only; they were spilling into the hallway and they were wanting to hear about the latest trends and what their fellow brokers were doing. So immediately you could see there was a real need for this information. Brokers really wanted some help and guidance and suggestion as to how they could be better brokers.”

After the summit: lessons learned

Eslinger has come to see broker summits as part of an overall strategy. After 41 years in real estate, she is still passionate about helping brokers and agents become more profitable and successful. She mentors numerous brokers and serves on the NAR Professional Development Committee, all with a goal to help the 5,500 brokers in the Arizona Association of REALTORS®. “For the 125 that come to the broker summit, it’s what we can do. We keep going,” she says. “I get my kicks from the results, from talking to brokers about a problem and taking care of it.”  

Education is not the only value of broker summits. Bill Martin sees value in “getting down to the street level, doing more than just shaking hands” as he develops personal relationships with brokers small and large. “A summit builds trust and credibility, leading to other opportunities and keeping us together as a team,” he says.

Martin sees that as especially valuable in creating an effective and engaged REALTOR® Political Action Committee, the voice of REALTORS® on Capitol Hill.

Perception matters and a broker summit can make all the difference. “Brokers feel we’re finally appreciating them with the special attention they deserve and require,” says Isaac Chavez, CEO of Vermont REALTORS®. He believes ongoing education is essential for brokers, as they are legally liable for all their agents.

Chavez says Vermont continues to grow its summits and attract from 80 to 120 members to events that are “low cost, low maintenance, and fairly easy for staff to run.”

At NAR’s REALTOR® Broker Summit, the most positive feedback on the post-event survey was about how helpful it was to hear brokers, both independent and franchise, at a variety of firm sizes, discuss issues and how they deal with them and some of their ideas. One of the highest-rated sessions on the agenda was the RISmedia Power Broker Roundtable session.

“The only advantage NAR has over a state or local broker program is that when brokers go to a national venue they feel a little bit more like sharing,” says Brown. “Sometimes in a local venue there’s still a little fear of the competition and revealing your strengths and weaknesses to your immediate competitors.”

According to the NAR post-event survey, attendees rated the event highly: 94 percent felt that they received the value of their registration fee and 84 percent expressed some likelihood of attending next year. Although no future dates or locations are set, NAR expects its broker summits to continue.

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