After working on state election campaigns, Karl Berron joined the staff of the Indiana Association of REALTORS® 33 years ago at the suggestion of a mentor—and never looked back. “IAR made the mistake of hiring and promoting me, and I’ve never been able to determine why,” he jokes with characteristic humility.
As CEO, Berron does a little bit of everything, with a particular focus on advocacy. Over the years, he has rebuilt the association’s culture, completed two major governance overhauls, led a coalition that brought landmark property tax reforms to Indiana, and acquired and renovated a headquarters building adjacent to the state Capitol.
Now that he’s ready to retire, Berron says he will miss the people most. “REALTORS® are amazing—smart, fun, and they do such good work for clients and their communities,” he says. “I’ll miss engaging with them.”
REALTOR® AE asked Berron about his long career and how he has been able to connect REALTORS® to their communities.
Q: What is the philosophy that drives your leadership?
Berron: Always remembering that the only reason we’re in business is to make our members’ business lives better. It’s their industry, and we’re spending their money. Our focus needs to remain on member needs and not the association’s parochial interests, which sometimes get in the way.
Q: How do you help members build their value proposition in the community?
Berron: Members are already heavily involved in their communities. Our job is to support them with various resources: market data and industry research, financial support through IAR and NAR programs, and other tools. We also try to explain how their community involvement links to our advocacy efforts, since it’s central to our political success.
Q: What are some key elements of REALTOR® value you highlight?
Berron: Economic development is all about quality of life. REALTORS® understand QOL better than anyone; it’s what they sell every day. They also know housing, which is central to many of today’s policy debates. Finally, REALTORS® are one of the few local actors that have a regional focus, so the REALTOR® voice is a particularly important one on issues that extend beyond local political boundaries.
Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed since you launched your career?
Berron: The changing value proposition of members and associations that has been driven by technology. Members have moved from a time when their market advantage came from having a monopoly on information to a time where information is ubiquitous. For associations, it’s the decoupling of the MLS that threatens the association’s “golden handcuffs.”
Q: What have you learned in your 33-year career that has helped you succeed?
Berron: The only asset associations have is our people—staff and volunteers. We have no secret recipes, no special equipment—just people. Attracting the best and brightest people is the most important role of an AE. If the right people are in the room, they’ll make the right decisions.
Q: What advice can you offer to new AEs who want to make an impact?
Berron: Become an expert in the industry you represent. Try to understand issues from the perspective of a member, not the association. Again, if our members succeed, we succeed, so do your best to listen to what they need, then try to provide it to them.
Q: What are your plans beyond retirement?
Berron: My only plan is to take six months to a year before committing to any new endeavors. So for now, it’s grueling things such as a Van Morrison concert in London’s Kew Gardens, some hikes in Europe, music festivals, and travels around the U.S. in our Airstream. And no email!