Laura Crowther stops to talk outreach, technology, and AEI.

From real estate practitioner to state association vice president to CEO of Coastal Carolinas Association of REALTORS®, Laura Crowther, RCE, has seen how the REALTOR® organization works from many vantage points.

Recently inducted into the Dr. Almon R. (Bud) Smith, RCE, AE Leadership Society, Crowther is known for her strategic planning expertise and savvy business management skills. Here she speaks to RAE about keeping in touch with members, using technology to transform association productivity, and leading the 2017 AE Institute planning committee.

Q. How do you keep in touch with what members need?

“I drop in to members’ offices when I’m in the neighborhood, just to make sure I’m staying in touch with what agents deal with on a day-to-day basis. Our association bought a van recently and wrapped it with our logo, so when I’m out and about, I will always drop into a few offices to say hello and answer any questions members may have. No appointment. Our members are always very welcoming and very proud to show off their office spaces. They appreciate that we’re available to them and interested in listening. I think you can lose touch when you’re in your own office all the time or traveling. It’s very important for members to understand that you want to know their challenges.”

Q. What technology have you implemented lately that’s changed the way your association runs?

“We’re using an app called BoardPAQ to help us organize our meetings for directors and other key committees. It’s been a tremendous time and money saver and we’ve achieved pretty robust adoption right away. We start building our meetings weeks in advance by loading the documents into the program. The members have access at all times and we can see who has checked in and reviewed the documents, so it boosts accountability. For those who don’t have tablets or laptops to bring to meetings, we’re providing tablets for members to log into their own BoardPAQ account. Buying tablets was an expense, but it was worth it to have everyone in lockstep during the board meetings and following along. We’ve also been able to cut down on the number of in-person meetings we have because the board of directors can stay in touch via the app and vote quickly through the app.”

Q. The real estate market in your area is recovering well. What effect has this had on your association offerings?

“Yes, we’ve seen a remarkable turnaround in our market and we have a very healthy balance of new construction along with a good inventory of resales. There’s more confidence in the market and we’re seeing a lot more people come into the business. We’re averaging 70 new members a month and we’re trying to do more for them by creating a stronger initial value proposition. We offer several free basic classes and send a monthly e-mail to remind them of classes or benefits they can take advantage of. We want to keep it in the forefront of their minds that we’re invested in their success. I see the association sort of like AAA; we’re there when you need us. I’d like people to value their membership in the association like that. I’d like to see them more often than I need AAA, but it’s still that same comfort and value that people feel with the association.”

Q. You’re the chair of the 2017 AE Institute planning committee. What’s on your wish list for next year’s event in Boulder, Colo.?

“Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of listening to AEs about what they want and what they like best about AEI. One thing I hear often is that they like having the ability to network with peer groups of like-minded AEs—in other words, AEs from similar-sized associations or AEs who do or do not have an MLS. They get a lot of benefits from talking to others in the same situation and learning best practices.

“I thought the advanced CEO track at AEI this year was particularly successful. It was well received and sold out very quickly. We’ll take a look at doing that again for 2017.”

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