Culture of Inclusion

HCAR’s Jessica Coates delivers value to her growing membership and community through collaboration and partnership.

Jessica Coates, RCE, CIPS, e-PRO, C2EX, is the CEO of the Howard County Association of REALTORS®.

The work culture you create determines the kind of leaders you attract."

—Jessica Coates

After serving several years at the Birmingham Association of REALTORS®, Alabama native Jessica Coates, RCE, CIPS, e-PRO, C2EX, relocated to Maryland in 2018 to take the CEO role at the Howard County Association of REALTORS®. There, she launched a campaign to better engage the membership.

Coates has recast HCAR as a community resource through strategic partnerships such as an educational program for first-time homebuyers hosted with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Coates currently chairs the AE Young Professionals Network Forum and will be vice chair of the Association Executives Committee in 2022.

REALTOR® AE asked Coates about building relationships within one’s own association, with other REALTOR® associations, and with the community at large.

Q: What have you found effective in building and maintaining trusting relationships?

Coates: The most effective strategy has been to keep transparent and consistent communication a priority. I have been able to build trust, establish respect, and better understand who we are as a team.

We want to give members an experience—not just a robotic “Hi, how can I help you?” Training isn’t a luxury anymore; our staffers are facilitators in establishing trust and understanding our mission to serve members.

Q: How were you able to diversify HCAR’s membership and encourage involvement?

Coates: I’ve worked to build an inclusive, welcoming environment. We have been running internal campaigns to entice leaders to volunteer more. It’s easy to tap different people and groups who have never been targeted for leadership, but it’s harder to look in the mirror and recognize that the process is not truly inclusive and figure out how to change it.

The work culture you create determines the kind of leaders you attract. Members want to feel like they are a part of something!

Our partnership with CCCS [aligned] with our vision of being the voice of real estate in Howard County, and the partnership checked the boxes for both associations’ strategic goals. CCCS wanted to offer first-time homebuyer education, and we thought, “Why not host them here? We could tap some of our volunteer leaders to lead sessions.” Aided by an in-person education reimbursement grant from NAR, the program gave our members an opportunity to identify future clients and helped us build our brand.

Q: How can AEs advance their career goals as they move up while nurturing and maintaining the connections they’ve made?

Coates: I make it a point to check in and connect with colleagues as much as possible. We designate time for Zoom calls and texts, and a lot of us talk through the AEI Year-Round Facebook group. We have ways of making time for one another.

Q: How can AEs forge supportive relationships with nearby REALTOR® associations when there is an element of competition in delivering services?

Coates: Playing nice in the sandbox is the key to development and growth! Through collaborations, you can create cool initiatives and professional camaraderie. One positive relationship we have is next door in Frederick County; its AE and I were chatting about how ethics cases have increased recently and came to the conclusion that we could support each other with those cases. No matter what the circumstances, positive and supportive relationships should be the goal.