When Marc Lebowitz, RCE, CAE, stepped into his new role as CEO of the Tucson Association of REALTORS® and MLS last March, he brought with him 23 years of experience in REALTOR® association management and a passion for change.
"Coming into a new place, you don't know if your predecessor was a financial wizard or a marketing genius, but either way, it's all about change," he says. "I came into this job with my own checklist of what I believe represents a strong, vibrant association, and prioritizing that list with our new leadership is what determines our challenges. It's not what was done here before."
In addition to settling in to a new association—and moving from Boise, Idaho, where he was CEO of the Ada County Association of REALTORS®—Lebowitz is also the incoming chairman of the National Association of REALTORS®' Association Executives Committee and has priorities for change there, too.
"We've finished the first year of Core Standards, and the committee would like to look at what we've learned and any changes that we'd like to propose," says Lebowitz. "There's also been a lot of turnover in AE ranks in the last year or two, so we'd like to see if we can add some more structure into the AE orientation, mentoring, and training that NAR provides to new AEs."
Yet it's not just new AEs who can benefit from NAR resources, says Lebowitz. He wants to encourage colleagues to take advantage of NAR programs and services.
"There are some amazing things going on right now at NAR, and we need to include checking in with what's new at NAR in our daily routine," he says.
His plans to have his staff complete NAR's online association management training so they are aware of all of the resources that NAR offers to help associations do a better job.
Among the skills Lebowitz brings to Tucson are his communication talents. His undergraduate work in television and film honed his natural ease in front of the camera and media savvy.
"Every association I've been in before has wanted me in the role of spokesperson for the association to the media. I'm comfortable with it, but it's not for everybody," he says. "The key is that we've got to put the best team on the field in order to have the best relationships with the media. Whatever the staff role is, it's important for us to support the REALTOR® spokesperson. I think the AE can bring, as a spokesperson, a really great contextual value, a broader vision of what the story might be. The AE is able to create longer relationships with the media so that they look to the association as a trusted source and a legitimate voice in any housing or economic development conversation."
TAR, like many associations, plans to include more video in its communications but finding the right way to capture, produce, and deliver videos is a challenge, says Lebowitz.
"I just worked on a one-minute promotional video for our REALTOR® expo and it took me about three and a half hours. That's a pretty big investment," he says.
Mastering the media and video are key elements of one of TAR's biggest priorities: consumer outreach. "We have about a dozen community outreach and charity events a year—it's is a key part of who we are," says Lebowitz. "All association strategic plans after Core Standards have a component of consumer outreach. In order to make it work internally, we have to make sure we've identified the most knowledgeable, passionate members in the different niches of our real estate market and have those people engaged, committed, and ready to go."
Look for more on the AEC's 2016 programs and new resources in Lebowitz's chairman column here in REALTOR® AE.